What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

The difference between murder and manslaughter is simpler than it seems. Manslaughter refers to the act of taking someone’s life unjustly, but without forethought. Manslaughter may be voluntary or involuntary, but it lacks premeditation. Murder, on the other hand, is the act of taking someone’s life intentionally after having planned the killing. They are both serious crimes, but because murder involves more moral blame, it results in harsher punishments than manslaughter.

If you or a loved one has recently been arrested or charged with murder or manslaughter, speak to the murder/manslaughter defense lawyers at Goldman Wetzel to discuss your legal options. Call our firm in St. Petersburg at 727-828-3900 for a free consult.

What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

Chapter 782: Homicide provides the following definitions:

  • Manslaughter: “The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification.” Manslaughter is voluntary when it is intentional (e.g., stabbing someone in a bar fight), or involuntary when it is unintentional (e.g., accidentally leaving a child in a hot vehicle).
  • Murder: “The unlawful killing of a human being when perpetrated from a premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed or any human being; when committed by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate, [certain felonies such as burglary, aggravated child abuse, or arson]; or which resulted from the unlawful distribution of any [controlled substance].”

The primary difference between murder and manslaughter is premeditation.

With voluntary manslaughter, often referred to as a heat-of-passion crime, the alleged attacker may have intended to harm the victim, but it was the spur-of-the-moment reaction caused by rage or jealousy.

With murder, the alleged attacker put thought into the act of killing and made a conscious decision to carry out the act. Like manslaughter, the motivation to murder may be anger or jealousy, but with murder, the defendant had time to cool off and think it through. It resulted from forethought, not uncontrollable emotions.

When someone is accused of a homicide, the prosecutor will review the facts of the case and determine whether to charge the defendant with manslaughter or murder. A grand jury will decide whether to indict defendants on first-degree murder charges. After hearing the evidence, the court will decide the case and determine appropriate charges and penalties.

If you work with Goldman Wetzel, we can attempt to intervene to prevent charges altogether by arguing self-defense or stand your ground law, or other arguments to prevent charges. We may also negotiate with the State to argue for manslaughter charges rather than murder charges, which reduces the penalties you face. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can intervene on your behalf to hopefully avoid or reduce charges.                                                                                  

How do the penalties for murder and manslaughter differ in Florida?

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida and results in the following penalties:

  • Up to 15 years’ imprisonment and/or probation; and
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.

If the victim in a manslaughter case was an elderly person, disabled adult, minor, law enforcement officer, emergency responder, or firefighter, the offense will be elevated to aggravated manslaughter, which is a first-degree felony. The penalties for aggravated manslaughter include:

  • Up to 30 years in prison; and
  • Up to a $10,000 fine.

The penalties for murder in Florida depend on whether the crime is first- or second-degree murder. The state will label a murder as first-degree, unless the defense can show that the defendant has a “depraved mind,” which essentially means he lacks the common, innate sense of morals and integrity that most humans possess.

The penalties for murder include:

  • First-degree murder: This is a capital felony, punishable by up to 40 years in prison, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, or death.
  • Second-degree murder: This is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life imprisonment, not exceeding 40 years.

How can I defend against murder or manslaughter charges?

Because they are such serious crimes with the harshest of penalties, homicide cases are considerably challenging. You will need to discuss your case with the defense lawyers at Goldman Wetzel to strategize a defense.

Sometimes that might include proving complete innocence by showing you had an alibi, that you were framed, or that the prosecutors have misidentified you. Perhaps you were acting in self-defense and it was an excusable homicide. With affirmative defenses, we can try to get the courts to lower your charges to a lesser offense, such as from murder to manslaughter.

Speak to our determined, aggressive criminal defense attorneys in St. Petersburg about your case today. Call Goldman Wetzel at 727-828-3900.

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