Manslaughter vs. Homicide: What’s the Difference?

Manslaughter and homicide are terms that frequently appear in the news, but the distinction between the two is not always clear. Although both of these crimes involve the taking of a human life, there are specific requirements that dictate which of the two charges will apply.

Although the similarities between manslaughter and homicide are abundant, it is important to understand the differences. This is necessary to ensure a punishment that suits the crime. Further complicating matters is the fact that there are many different types of murder, just as there are various types of manslaughter. The following information will shed some light on this complicated issue.

What is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter is defined as the unlawful killing of another person without malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is a term of art that refers to the desire to do someone harm and then proceeding to carry out the harmful action. There are two main types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary.

  • Voluntary manslaughter: This crime occurs “in the heat of the moment” and is sometimes referred to as a “crime of passion.” These terms describe the lack of malice aforethought that defines manslaughter charges. For example, if someone is provoked to such a degree that any reasonable person would be expected to react in a violent manner and the person causing the provocation is killed, a charge of voluntary manslaughter can be brought against the killer.
  • Involuntary manslaughter: This type of manslaughter occurs when the reckless, careless disregard for the safety of others results in one or more deaths. For example, a contractor who neglects to follow safety precautions at a construction site and inadvertently causes a fatal accident could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. A fatal drunk driving accident could also be considered involuntary manslaughter.

What is Homicide?

According to the Texas Penal Code, homicide, or murder, is a crime committed by someone who, with malice aforethought, sets out to do another person harm and then kills that person. There are several different classifications for homicide.

  • First-degree murder: The most serious of murder charges occurs when someone makes a premeditated plan to end the life of another person and carries out that plan. This charge can also apply if the killing takes place during a dangerous felony crime or if the killer uses explosives.
  • Second-degree murder: Although very similar to first-degree murder, second-degree murder typically lacks some of the definitive evidence of a first-degree charge. For example, the killer may have planned to do harm but not to kill, or they may have not premeditated their actions.

To learn more about the differences between manslaughter and homicide, consult with The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100.