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What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

Homicide is the act of killing another human being. From this starting point, homicide comes in many forms, two of which are murder and manslaughter. They are both unlawful killings of human victims, but they have distinct characteristics. Namely, they are separated by the level of forethought put into the offense.

Murder and manslaughter are both violent crimes, and both offenses carry steep penalties in Florida. If you have been charged with either offense in any degree, be proactive and start working with a criminal defense lawyer right away to develop a solid legal defense strategy.

Malice and Forethought Mark the Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder

Murder is defined as any unlawful killing with malice aforethought. This means that the offender intended to kill his or her victim without a legally justifiable reason to do so. This can be due to his or her hatred for the victim, but it does not necessarily have to be. If an individual is proven to have intentionally acted in a manner that showed reckless disregard for the victim’s health or safety, he or she may be found guilty of murder.

Manslaughter, on the other hand, is an unlawful killing without malice aforethought. This does not mean that only accidental victim deaths result from acts of manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter, also known as a heat of passion crime, occurs when an individual is provoked into behaving in a violent manner that results in a victim’s death.

With voluntary manslaughter, the offender intentionally killed the victim but did not have a premeditated plan to do so. Involuntary manslaughter refers to unintentional killings committed through acts of extreme negligence or through non-felony criminal offenses.

Sometimes, The Difference is Hard to Determine

It is not always easy to determine whether an offense was an act of murder or an act of manslaughter. In some cases, unintentional deaths are not criminal acts at all. For example, if a victim dies in a car accident because another driver was speeding, the speeding driver is generally not guilty of a crime. He or she may be required to compensate the victim’s family through a wrongful death claim, though.

In contrast, a speeding driver who was otherwise exceptionally negligent, such as a drunk speeding driver, may be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. In a case like this, the driver did not seek out to kill a victim, but knew that he or she drove in a manner that could realistically result in a victim’s death.

Contrast this further with a scenario where the driver planned to kill the victim and carried out the plan with his or her vehicle. In this case, the driver may be found guilty of murder.

Work with an Experienced Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with manslaughter, murder, or any other type of violent crime, you need to start working on your case’s defense with an experienced Miami criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If you are not guilty of a crime, you need to prove it through an effective defense strategy. Contact our team at Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today to schedule your initial consultation with a member of our firm.


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