How is voluntary manslaughter different from murder?

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

When one person directly causes the death of another, criminal charges often result. Sometimes, the cause of death is accidental and unintentional. Other times, a person makes a decision that they know could harm someone but doesn’t directly intend to cause someone harm.

Many times, those who make conscious decisions to hurt others face murder charges. However, in certain circumstances, the state might charge you with voluntary manslaughter instead of murder or homicide. What is the difference between voluntary manslaughter and murder?

Murder usually involves intention and conscious decisions

When people choose to harm someone, they might plan ahead to do so in the hope that they won’t get caught. Premeditated murder charges or murder in the first degree reflects an intentional plan to end someone’s life.

When someone acts without planning, many times they face charges of murder in the second degree. For example, someone who got into a bar fight that proved fatal for the other person might face second-degree murder charges. In order to face murder charges, you have to have been in your right mind and have made a conscious decision to hurt someone.

Voluntary manslaughter involves irrational and emotional behavior

Voluntary manslaughter charges involve situations where you have a strong emotional reaction that amounts to temporary insanity. Walking in on someone abusing your kid might provoke you to draw your legal firearm and kill them on the spot, even though the rational side of your brain tells you that you should call the police.

Since emotions clouded your judgment, the state will charge you with voluntary manslaughter instead of with murder in cases with extreme circumstances.

Voluntary manslaughter is a slightly less serious offense

Obviously, any crime that claims someone’s life is a serious criminal act. However, not all violent crimes are equally significant in the eyes of the law. Voluntary manslaughter is a Class C felony, while standard murder is usually a Class A felony.

Although voluntary manslaughter is less serious than intentional murder, you still need to think about defending yourself against those pending charges because the penalties include fines and jail time.


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