When someone commits an unlawful killing, it can, legally speaking, be
classified as either murder or manslaughter. The nature of the crime,
how it was committed and the nature between the victim and the accused
can all contribute to the way in which the crime is charged. However,
differentiating between the two isn’t always cut and dry. In fact,
the difference between manslaughter and murder can sometimes be subjective.
Murder is committed intentionally and with “malice aforethought,”
which means the killer acted without regard for the victim’s life.
A murder charge, as well as manslaughter, must have been committed unlawfully.
That is to say, if the accused person acted in self-defense, he or she
did not commit a crime. The murder need not be intentional for it to be
classified as such. If the killer intended to inflict serious bodily harm
that led to the victim’s death, it could still be considered an
act of murder.
Classifications of Murder
Depending on the circumstances of the killing, it could be classified as
either first-degree or second-degree murder. First-degree murder is considered
a much more serious crime and will result in more severe penalties. To
commit first-degree murder, the court must agree that the killer had intended
to kill the victim, usually through a course of deliberate, planned actions.
In circumstances where the killing was not intentional, it will likely
be considered second-degree murder. However, these classifications vary
case-by-case and are determined based on the individual circumstances
of each incident.
As with a murder charge, manslaughter must be an unlawful killing. It can
also be classified as either voluntary or involuntary, depending on whether
the killer intended to end the life of his or her victim or not. The main
difference between manslaughter and murder lies in the degree of premeditation
and the state of mind of the alleged killer. A murderer planned to either
kill or seriously injure his or her victim, whereas someone who commits
manslaughter could have killed in the heat of the moment.
The penalties for manslaughter and murder can both be very serious, though
murder is generally punished more severely. First-degree murder may result
in up to $10,000 in fines and could lead to several decades or life in
prison. Second-degree murder could lead to the same fine, though the prison
sentence will not exceed 20 years.
In the state of Virginia, manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment of
up to 10 years and a fine of up to $2,500. However, conviction for a manslaughter
crime could result in more serious repercussions, (up to 20 years in prison),
if the defendant’s actions were considered wanton or without regard
for human life.
Violent crime charges are extremely serious and could drastically change
your personal and professional life for the worse. If you are facing charges,
make sure you have a knowledgeable, aggressive criminal defense attorney
on your side.
Contact The Law Offices of Daniel J Miller
for a free consultation.