What is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder?

In the eyes of the law, there are some very distinct differences between manslaughter and murder and, as such, each comes with its own set of penalties one must face if convicted, depending on the details and severity of the offense. Defining these two might seem straightforward, but it has the potential to become quite complex, which is why it is critical to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing charges for these crimes.

Manslaughter is generally defined as an unlawful killing that does not include an intent to harm or kill. This means that less moral blame is often placed on perpetrators in such cases, compared to those facing murder charges. However, there two main variations of manslaughter and it is important to understand their differences.

Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is typically referred to as a crime that is committed in the “heat of passion.” It is often defined by these elements:

  • The individual was strongly provoked and, under the same circumstances, a reasonable person could be similarly provoked
  • The individual killed in the heat of passion as a result of the provocation

Additionally, for this to be considered a heat of passion crime, the individual could not have had a chance to cool off from the provocation.

Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is defined as an unintentional homicide that stems from criminally negligent actions, or even the unintentional killing of another through the commission of a crime. Given how similar involuntary manslaughter and unintentional second-degree murder are, this is where things can get a little hairy. The key difference between these two is in the mental state of the perpetrator and how morally blameworthy he or she is.


Unlike voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, murder is distinctly different because the perpetrator would have committed an intentional act or engaged in behavior that was so reckless that it demonstrated an extreme indifference to human life. First-degree murder is the most egregious of these offenses since it not only involves intention, but planning as well, whereas second-degree murder involves intention without planning. For example, if a perpetrator fired a gun at a person, missed, and killed a bystander, this would likely be considered second-degree murder.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Worth

If you are facing criminal charges, you are likely aware that a lot is at stake. You need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who will aggressively fight to protect your rights. At The Clark Law Firm, our Fort Worth attorneys have the knowledge to assist you during this difficult time.

Get started on your case today and seek the representation you need by calling us at (817) 435-4970 to schedule your complimentary initial consultation.


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