2024 Difference Between Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter

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If you are accused of causing another person’s death, there are multiple types of charges that you could face. While the terms homicide, murder, and manslaughter all may seem similar, there are important distinctions between these legal terms that result in different punishment severities. If you are facing any of these charges, it is especially important that you understand the differences in the repercussions of each allegation.

Being arrested for any of these charges can cause immense stress and fear for your future. Although they do carry different penalties, all the penalties are still severe. It is critical to speak with an experienced Los Angeles Murder & Manslaughter Lawyer at Gibbons & Gibbons. We can provide valuable insight into your specific charges and potential penalties. Our team can create unique and effective defense strategies to reach a positive outcome for your case.


Homicide is the umbrella term that encompasses all forms of killing another person, whether legal or illegal. For example, if you kill another person while protecting yourself because you believe your life is in danger, this could be ruled a legal killing. However, it would still be legally termed a homicide. With respect to illegal killings, the broad term “homicide” is broken down into two areas: manslaughter and murder.


Manslaughter is the unlawful, but unintentional, killing of another person. The death was not planned prior and was instead the result of recklessness or negligence. It could also be categorized as a crime of passion. It can be broken down into two categories:

  • Involuntary ManslaughterThis type of homicide is committed when a person is killed because of actions that involve a wanton disregard for life by the accused. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when there is no true intent to kill and no premeditation. An example would be a person who is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes a fatal car accident. The resulting penalty can be up to four years in prison.
  • Voluntary ManslaughterThis type of homicide occurs when the killing was not premeditated, but the intended result was to inflict bodily harm or kill the other person. The provocation must be understood as a cause that would have resulted in another reasonable person acting the same under similar circumstances. Common examples of voluntary manslaughter include crimes of passion, such as when a person walks in on their spouse with another person. Penalties for this homicide charge can include up to 11 years in prison.


Murder is the illegal killing of another person. Under California Penal Code Section 187, murder charges are applicable when a person kills another with malice aforethought. The legal definition of malice states that it is the intention, knowledge, or desire to do wrong. When a person kills another with the intent to do so, that person has demonstrated malice aforethought. Murder charges are much more severe than manslaughter charges. In California, there are two types of murder charges:

  • First-Degree MurderThis type of homicide results from a killing that was planned or designed prior to being carried out. There are multiple subsets of first-degree murder. Felony murder occurs when an unintended killing results from another intentional crime. Capital murder charges can be applied if the law considers the circumstances of the murder to be especially egregious. A first-degree murder conviction can result in up to 25 years in prison, and a capital murder conviction can result in life without parole.
  • Second-Degree MurderThis type of homicide results from murder without premeditated intent to kill. It typically includes any murder charge that cannot be counted as first-degree. The penalty for a second-degree murder charge can range from 15 years to life in prison.


Q: Is Murder or Manslaughter the More Serious Charge?

A: Murder is the intentional killing of another person, while manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another. Murder carries the distinction of being planned prior to the crime being committed. Therefore, it is considered a more serious crime and carries a heavier penalty. Manslaughter may result in 11 years in prison, and murder can result in life in prison.

Q: Is Homicide a Crime?

A: Depending on the situation, it is possible for a homicide to not be a crime. Homicide is defined as the killing of one person by another. This broad term refers to any situation that involves a person killing another, including both legal and illegal killings. All instances of murder and manslaughter are illegal homicides. However, not all homicides will fall under those illegal killing terms.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Involuntary and Voluntary Manslaughter?

A: Either type of manslaughter lacks malicious intent, but there is an important distinction between the two. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the killing results from recklessness or negligence, but there was no intent to kill. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when there was intent to cause severe harm or death, but the killing itself was a result of severe provocation in the moment.

Q: What Is the Difference Between First- and Second-Degree Murder?

A: In general, second-degree murder is broadly defined as any form of murder that does not meet the qualifications of first-degree murder. It is a lesser charge than first-degree murder. Second-degree murder is meant to cover a wide range of scenarios. This makes it easier for prosecutors to file charges for those crimes. First-degree murder is more serious and requires both planning and malice.

Defending Against Murder and Manslaughter Charges

When you or a loved one is facing an allegation as serious as manslaughter or murder, it is imperative to work with an attorney experienced in that area of law. A skilled lawyer may be able to reduce murder charges to manslaughter charges. They might also reduce voluntary manslaughter to involuntary manslaughter. These reductions can mean a difference of years of prison time.

Dealing with a manslaughter or murder charge is a nerve-wracking event. A conviction has the potential to steal the rest of your life with a long-term prison sentence. Fighting these serious charges requires an experienced attorney. It is especially critical to find someone who is dedicated to protecting your rights and seeing justice prevail. The Gibbons & Gibbons team can help you successfully navigate these complex charges. We can find the most effective defense strategy for your specific case. To protect your future, schedule a consultation by reaching out to our office.