Tennessee Criminal Defense

Murder vs. Manslaughter: What Is the Difference?

Violent crimes can carry heavy consequences, but there can be differences between specific charges that can be incredibly important when it comes to the penalties you’ll be facing. When a crime you commit involves the death of another, it is highly likely that you’ll be charged with some form of homicide. Homicide is a class of crimes that involves the death of another person and contains many separate types of crimes, such as murder and manslaughter. But what are the differences between these charges?

Murder vs Manslaughter

The main factor differentiating between murder and manslaughter is intent. Murder involves the intentional killing of another person as a premeditated act or as the result of a separate felony. However, manslaughter involves the killing of another person without malice aforethought and can be charged as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Murder in Tennessee

Murder is a crime that results in the intentional death of another person. It is not lawful or legally justified, and it is committed with malice aforethought. Malice aforethought can mean:

  • Premeditated, planned violence.
  • Intentional infliction of serious bodily harm that results in the victim’s death.
  • Behavior that shows an extreme, reckless disregard for life that results in the victim’s death.

Murder is divided into two classifications: first- and second-degree murder. First-degree murder is reserved for more serious or complicated murders. Certain situations can raise the severity of the charge from second-degree murder to first-degree. These include:

  • Premeditated murder: There is some time, no matter how brief, during which the defendant reflects on their planned action.
  • Felony murder: The death occurs during the course of a separate felony or as a result of the felony.

Manslaughter in Tennessee

Manslaughter also results in the death of another individual, but it lacks the intentional aspect of murder. If there is no malice aforethought, it is likely that you will be charged with manslaughter. Even though manslaughter is a serious crime, the penalties are less than the penalties of murder. Manslaughter is typically divided into two categories: voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Often known as a “heat of passion” crime, voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person is strongly provoked by reasonable circumstances and kills a person as a result of that provocation. If “heat of passion” is the reason for the attack, the attacker must act immediately, and not have had time to cool off and think about what they intended to do. The emotional factor is important in determining their moral blameworthiness.

Involuntary Manslaughter

This is an unintentional crime that results from criminally negligent or reckless conduct. It is an unintentional killing that occurs in the course of a non-felony crime. There are some differences between second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, including malice aforethought, which can occur when there is extreme indifference for human life. There is a fine line, and it may be up to the court to determine the exact charge.

If you’ve been charged with homicide, it is important to begin your defense quickly. Our Murfreesboro homicide defense lawyer can help you plan the strategic defense you need. Joshua T. Crain, Attorneys at Law is deeply experienced and well-equipped to tackle your charges, no matter how difficult your case may seem.

Contact our offices at (615) 200-9409, and schedule your free consultation.