Murder Vs Manslaughter: What Is The Difference In NC?

Murder vs manslaughter in North Carolina

When people hear the terms murder and manslaughter, they may use them interchangeably, assuming that they are one and the same. But murder and manslaughter are two entirely different offenses. Although both crimes result in the loss of life, there are key differences when it comes to the crimes themselves, and the punishments they carry.

We’re going to look at the differences between murder vs. manslaughter, as well as their punishments. We’ll also explain how a criminal defense attorney at The Coolidge Law Firm can help in your defense if you find yourself accused of one of these crimes.

Definition of Murder

Murder is an illegal killing with the malicious intent to end a life. Some degrees of murder include premeditation.

Definition of Manslaughter

Unlike murder, manslaughter does not involve malicious intent. When people are accused of manslaughter, they ended a life without any intent to do so. Many times, a fatal accident falls under this category. Although someone did die, there was no plan to cause the person’s death.

Understanding The Differences Between Murder and Manslaughter

Intentional Killing vs. Negligence

The main difference between many levels of murder and manslaughter charges is whether it was an intentional act or whether the crime was the result of the negligence of one party.

With negligent homicide charges, some act of criminal negligence is committed that results in a person’s death. When talking about negligence, a person may ignore an obvious risk or disregard the life and safety of others. Drunk driving that results in a person’s death can be one example of negligence.

When you’re talking about the intentional killing of another person, or murder, you are talking about someone who wanted to take a human life. Intentional killings can carry the most serious criminal charges.

Levels of Intent & Punishments

With murder, there are different levels of murder. While some are intentional, others are not.

First-degree murder

When talking about murder, there are different levels of intent. First-degree murder is when a person planned another person’s death and followed through on it.

The most severe penalties are reserved for first-degree murder convictions. This includes mandatory life imprisonment with no possibility of parole or the death penalty.

Second-degree murder

Second-degree murder is not pre-meditated but still results in the illegal killing of another person. When someone is so reckless that it results in the death of another person, this is considered second-degree murder. If a killing was committed during a felony crime, it can result in a second-degree murder charge.

Punishment for this type of crime is a mandatory life sentence without parole.

Third-degree murder

With a third-degree murder charge, there was no intent to kill. Third-degree murder charges can arise if someone fires a gun in a crowd with no intention to kill, but the action results in the loss of human life.

A third-degree murder conviction can result in a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Examples of Murder and Manslaughter

Just as there are different levels of murder charges, there are also different types of manslaughter charges that a person can face. Despite the type, the action results in the loss of life.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is the intentional killing of another person that was not planned or premeditated. In these cases, one person often takes another person’s life in the heat of passion. This is usually the result of a reasonable provocation.

Examples of voluntary manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter can occur when one spouse finds another cheating. Seeing the affair can put someone in such a rage that they take another person’s life. Another example can be during an argument that reaches a severe level and leaves one party strongly provoked.

Punishment for voluntary manslaughter

In North Carolina, voluntary manslaughter is considered a Class D felony and can carry a prison sentence of up to 64 months behind bars.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another person, usually through criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is a way of acting that results in a high probability of serious injury or death. But the defendant did not intend to kill the victim.

Examples of involuntary manslaughter

Examples of involuntary manslaughter can include actions like texting while driving which leads to a deadly accident, failing to control an animal that has a history of attacking others, and driving under the influence. Any of these actions show a reckless disregard for others and can result in death.

Punishment for involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter typically does not carry a severe punishment compared to other crimes. If convicted, someone can face anywhere from 13 months to 20 years in prison. They may also be forced to pay a hefty fine.

Capital Murder vs First-Degree Murder

When looking at crimes that result in illegal killings, it is also worth knowing the difference between capital murder and first-degree murder charges.

Definition of Capital Murder

Capital murder is a first-degree murder that can result in the death penalty. It is often the most severe crime. The state where the crime was committed has to have a capital punishment law on the books. Typically, these types of crimes have exceptional circumstances such as the murder of a police officer.

Capital Murder Punishment

If someone is proven guilty of capital murder, they can expect the most severe punishment of either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Definition of First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder involves malicious intent as well as premeditation of committing the crime.

First-degree murder punishment

The penalties for a murder conviction are among the most severe the criminal justice system can impose. They can include:

  • More than a decade in prison
  • Life prison sentence
  • Death sentence

Generally, first-degree murder carries a sentence of decades to life in prison (with or without parole).

Summary of Key Differences between Murder and Manslaughter

In summary, there are several key differences when comparing murder and manslaughter.

  • Murder is an unlawful killing when the defendant intended to end a life.
  • Manslaughter does not involve malicious intent. When people are accused of manslaughter, they ended a life without any intent to do so.
  • There are two types of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary.
  • Voluntary manslaughter occurs when the intentional killing of another person was not planned or premeditated. One person often takes another person’s life in the heat of passion.
  • Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another person, usually through criminal negligence.
  • Punishment for murder is typically more severe than for manslaughter. Both murder and manslaughter can carry prison sentences. Murder charges can result in a maximum sentence of life behind bars without parole or a death sentence.

If You’re Facing Charges Of Manslaughter or Felony Murder, You Need The Representation Of The Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys At The Coolidge Law Firm

If you’re facing manslaughter or murder charges, contact The Coolidge Law Firm. Both manslaughter and murder are serious charges that need legal representation. Our law offices can provide you with the criminal law advice you need. We offer a professional attorney-client relationship. Call us today at (919) 239-8448 or fill out the form below to schedule your consultation and find out how we can help you.

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