Murder vs Manslaughter — What’s the Difference?

The terms ‘manslaughter’ and ‘murder’ are sometimes used interchangeably (and wrongly) by the general public. Understanding the difference between these two is important for those facing charges or who know someone facing charges.

The Definition of Murder by Common Law

Murder is defined as the intentional killing of another human, with malice, in the absence of legal justification.

Malice aforethought as it relates to murder is said to be present when:

  • There was clear intention to kill another human being absent of legal justification to do so (i.e. self-defense for example);
  • There was an intention to cause serious harm to another individual, resulting in that individual’s death; and
  • The alleged murderer displayed reckless regard for human life, resulting in the death of another individual

Murder may be further classified based on the specific circumstances of the crime, and may include first-degree or second-degree charges.

The Definition of Manslaughter

Manslaughter is defined as the unlawful killing of another individual, by another person, but in the absence of malice. Manslaughter applies when there was no intent to kill or seriously harm another human, and when there was no reckless disregard for human life involved. Manslaughter is generally perceived as less morally egregious, and as such, usually carries less harsh penalties than murder.

Like murder, manslaughter may be further classified, with manslaughter being either involuntary or voluntary.


Categorized in: , , , ,

This post was written by: