The Difference Between Murder & Manslaughter in California
Explained by Fullerton Defense Attorney Jacqueline Goodman
When you are accused of causing someone else's death in California, you could be charged with a form of homicide. Not all homicide charges are alike, though, and the details behind your charge are crucial for understanding how to defend yourself from it. For the most part, people who cause the death of another are charged with manslaughter or murder. But what is the difference between the two?
The key difference between manslaughter and murder in California is:
- Manslaughter charges are reserved for those who kill another without any intent to cause their death. If you cause a fatal accident by drunk driving, for example, you may not have set out with the intention of ending another life, but you may still face vehicular manslaughter charges.
- Murder, on the other hand, requires malicious intent to end a life. Some degrees of murder also include premeditation or planning to end a life. Due to its definition, murder convictions are almost always more heavily penalized than a manslaughter conviction.
The main similarity between murder and manslaughter is that each charge can bring heavy criminal consequences upon conviction. You can end up behind bars for years and pay thousands of dollars in fines and restitution whether you are convicted of manslaughter or murder. With this said, it is clearly important to work with an experienced and attention defense lawyer like Attorney Jacqueline Goodman, who represents clients throughout Fullerton and beyond.
Voluntary Vs. Involuntary Manslaughter
Manslaughter, while lacking malicious intent, can still be voluntary. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone is strongly provoked in an instance where any other reasonable person may be provoked and kills another "in the heat of the moment.” For example, a man comes home to find his wife cheating on him and he kills her lover while incited and before he can be calmed down. It could be possible to convince the district attorney to file a manslaughter charge instead of murder since the husband had no time to premeditate his actions.
When the death is caused by gross negligence or recklessness, it is considered involuntary manslaughter. As discussed before, fatal drunk driving accidents are often used as examples for involuntary manslaughter in California. The drunk driver acted grossly negligent in decided to drink while intoxicated, and that action ended another person’s life, so the charge is validated.
First-Degree Vs. Second-Degree Murder
Murder, while more serious than manslaughter, is also broken up into two tiers in California. First-degree murder is the intentional killing of another person with malice and planning.
Other factors can escalate a murder charge to first-degree, such as:
- Explosives, poisons, or armor-piercing ammunition is used
- Victim is tortured before being murdered
- Murder occurs during another felony, such as rape
Second-degree murder is broadly defined in California as any form of murder that cannot be counted as first-degree. This is an umbrella category that can capture any number of scenarios, making it easier for prosecutors to justify filing charges against the accused.
When The Stakes Are High, Trust Attorney Jacqueline Goodman
No matter if you are facing manslaughter or murder charges, the stakes could not be any higher. Your rights, your freedom, and your future are all in jeopardy. One wrong move and you could be incarcerated for years and lose your reputation and livelihood. You can't just trust any lawyer to fight by your side.
Choose Fullerton manslaughter and murder defense Attorney Jacqueline Goodman. With her decades of experience and Board Certification in Criminal Law, she can approach your case from unique angles that other lawyers might have never seen. She fights to keep the presumption of guilt alive in the country—you are innocent until proven guilty!