Murder vs Manslaughter: What's The Difference?

Murder vs Manslaughter: What’s The Difference?

by Aug 6, 2019

Manslaughter and murder are two of the most serious crimes you can be charged with. Between the two, murder is the more serious charge, but manslaughter also carries significant punishment if convicted.

From a legal standpoint, there is a very clear difference between murder vs manslaughter, and knowing which charges you face is critical when speaking with a criminal defense attorney.


Manslaughter is defined as an unlawful killing that doesn’t involve malice aforethought (intent to seriously harm or kill) or extreme, reckless disregard for life. Because someone who commits manslaughter, by definition, did not intend to kill the victim, the punishment is less severe than for murder.

There are two types of manslaughter charges that can be brought against you: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Commonly referred to as a “heat of passion” crime. Voluntary manslaughter charges are brought against someone who:

  • Was strongly provoked under circumstances that could similarly provoke a reasonable person
  • Kills in the heat of passion resulting from that provocation

A typical example of voluntary manslaughter would be if you came home and unexpectedly found your spouse cheating on you, and you became so angry in the moment that you killed the person your spouse was cheating with.

Ready To Speak To An Attorney?

Call us now at (707) 540-2356

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter typically refers to an unintentional homicide resulting from criminally negligent or reckless conduct. It can also refer to an unintentional killing through the commission of a crime other than a felony.

The line between murder and involuntary manslaughter can sometimes be difficult to discern, mainly because an accidental killing due to extreme recklessness may constitute second-degree murder.


Similar to manslaughter, there are two different types of murder charges:

First Degree Murder includes felony murder and premeditated, intentional killings. This is the most serious crime you can possibly be charged with.

Second Degree Murder is defined as an unplanned intentional killing or a death caused by reckless disregard for human life.

Often the difference between being charged with first or second-degree murder comes down to intent, and there is often a very fine line between a first and second-degree killing. First-degree murder requires that a defendant plan and intentionally carry out the killing, whereas second-degree murder requires that the killing either be intentional or reckless and occur in the spur of the moment.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

15 + 12 =