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Is murder the same as manslaughter?

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larrygates eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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My twenty years experience as a practicing attorney compels me to answer: The classic definition of murder is "the unlawful killing of a human being by another human being with malice aforethought.The operative phrase means one has had time to reflect on ones intentions; has planned the crime, and follows through. A classic case would be lying in wait. This is often referred to as "cold blooded murder," because there is no passion involved; only a cold, premeditated intent. Manslaughter, if it is voluntary, involves the unlawful killing of a human being by another human being without malice aforethought. Such a homicide is normally committed in the heat of passion; say a spouse who discovers in the act of cheating. The difference between the two is if the offender has had the opportunity to reflect. The old common law rule, no longer in effect, was if one had time to sleep after being offended, one had time to reflect.  Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being by another human being without the requisite intent. It can be by reckless driving; playing with guns, etc. It normally involves conduct which is beyond negligent, but is wilful and wanton. It should be pointed out that all homicides are not unlawful. If a person is put to death legally for the commission of a crime, the death certificate will list the cause of death as "homicide."

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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No.  These are not the same thing.  They are both types of homicide, but they are not the same.  The main thing that distinguishes murder from manslaughter is the intent of the person who kills the other person.

Murder is a killing that must be done with intent.  If the intent was formed long before the killing, it is first degree murder.  But whenever the intent was formed, it must exist in order for a murder charge to be brought.

By contrast, a person who kills another without meaning to may be guilty of manslaughter.  So, for example, if you kill someone in the heat of passion, without really having the time or the ability to consider what you are doing, you might be charged with voluntary manslaughter.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Both murder and manslaughter are forms of homicide, or the killing of one person by another. However, when establishing murder or manslaughter where there is a homicide, the difference is made when it comes to one word: Intent.

If a person plans and carries out a plan to inflict pain and death upon someone else, and a causation is establish (a rationale/a motif), then that person would be accused of murder. Murder comes in first or second degree. Those who have a clear intent are murders in the first degree.

Manslaughter occurs when there is a homicide which was accidentally or unwillingly caused by someone. For example, crashing an out-of-control vehicle against another and causing the death of the other driver is something that a person may not have been able to control. However, death was still caused and the killing is still ruled as a homicide: But not as "murder".

Manslaughter can also come at different degrees and there is a lot of discussion on whether voluntary manslaughter can be also deemed as plain murder, whereas involuntary manslaughter can certainly be ruled as an accident. However, that is something for lawyers to negotiate with the state, who conducts the investigations.

Mainly, intent is the causative of the difference between the two.

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rienzi | Student

The difference between manslaughter and murder is murder requires intent to kill, manslaughter does not. First degree murder is a specific intent crime. The leveling of a gun and firing at a specific individual that results in that person's death is first degree murder. Leveling a gun at one person and hitting another would be second or third degree murder. In Pennsylvania second degree murder is a killing that results while a perpetrator is in the act of committing a felony. Third degree is general intent murder. For many states general intent murder is second degree  murder. General intent murder can also be a drive by shooting where there is no intent towards a specific individual.

Voluntary Manslaughter is a killing without the intent to kill but merely harm or frighten. Acts generally regarded as reckless that result in a death are voluntary manslaughter.Intending to shoot a gun to scare away trick-or-treaters and killing one of the individuals would be voluntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter involves negligent conduct that results in a death. Vehicular homicide is typically involuntary manslaughter.