Are Murder and Manslaughter Two Different Things?

February 9, 2015
Are Murder and Manslaughter Two Different Things?

The term “homicide” applies to the act of one person killed another person. But within the distinction of unlawful homicides, there are two other distinctions: Murder and Manslaughter.

Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

The main defining difference between “murder” and “manslaughter” is dictated by the killer’s state of mind and the different degrees of murder.


Murder, as defined in California, is killing with “malice aforethought,” which means malice. Express malice means the defendant had an intention to kill. Implied malice means the defendant intentionally committed an act that he or she knew to be dangerous and dangerous to human life. Thus, the act was committed with a conscious disregard for human life.

So a crime is defined as “murder” if express or implied malice exist. Murder can be classified into two degrees: first and second. First-degree murder means the murder was committed willfully and with premeditation and deliberation. Essentially, the defendant decided to kill the person.


Manslaughter is unlawful killing, but without malice. Manslaughter does constitute murder with a “conscious disregard for human life.” Murder can be reduced to voluntary manslaughter when the act is committed as either:  1) heat of passion, or 2) imperfect defense of self or others.

Heat of passion can be defined as a killing that: 1) resulted from the defendant being provoked, 2) caused a defendant to act rashly under intense emotion because of provocation, 3) was provoked and the provocation would have caused an average person to act rashly.

Essentially, a jury must find that the defendant was provoked by the victim to the point that he acted from a place of intense emotion rather than a place of pre-meditated anger (such as a murder distiniction).

Source: Criminal Law Consulting, Murder versus Manslaughter, 2015

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