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What Is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder?

Posted by John C. Taylor | Jan 01, 2021 | 0 Comments

Is it murder or manslaughter? Most people have difficulties understanding how these two crimes that end people's lives differ. Let's establish their similarities before looking at their differences.

Essentially, these two crimes are homicides, meaning they involved the wrongful killing of a person by another. However, not all homicides are charged or punished equally under Tennessee law. The specifics of the situation and allegations brought by authorities will determine whether you might face manslaughter charges, murder charges, or possibly both.

In either situation, you are facing extremely serious charges with your freedom and future on the line. You need a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer on your side immediately.

Defining Murder

Legally, murder is the knowing killing of another person. Further, the law categorizes murder as first and second-degree, depending on the situation. First-degree murder occurs when a killer deliberately plans to kill another human, while second-degree murder does not require premeditation. The following situations might be charged as murder under Tennessee law:

  • The killing was intentional and premeditated.
  • The killing of another person while committing other crimes like terrorism, theft, domestic violence, assault, robbery, or rape.
  • The killing was knowing, though not planned in advance.
  • The killing happened due to the sale of unlawful drugs.

First-degree murder is the most serious criminal charge possible, and a sentence can include the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Second-degree murder is a Class A felony, which means a possible 15 to 60 years in prison.

Defining Manslaughter

Manslaughter is a less serious - but still extremely serious - type of homicide charge. There are two types of manslaughter charges - voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone kills another person due to unbearable provocation. For instance, a wife or husband could act out of passion if they found their spouse in bed with another person. In such cases, the judge will examine the circumstances to establish that, indeed, the killer was uncontrollably enraged.

Tennessee does not have a specific charge of “involuntary manslaughter,” but instead has the following:

  • Vehicular homicide
  • Reckless homicide
  • Criminally negligent homicide

In all of these situations, there would be no intention to kill someone, but there is reckless or criminally negligent conduct that puts other lives at risk and, in fact, takes one or more lives.

Manslaughter charges range from Class E felony (criminally negligent homicide) to Class C felony (voluntary manslaughter or vehicular homicide). Often, prosecutors will include manslaughter as lesser offenses to murder charges, and penalties can range from two to 15 years in prison.

Speak with a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer

The experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense team at Taylor Law Group is ready to help. We help our clients defend against all types of criminal charges, so please do not wait to contact us online or call 615-890-1982 for a consultation.

About the Author

John C. Taylor

John C. Taylor is a Murfreesboro native and a graduate of Oakland High School. He earned his bachelor's degree from Furman University in Greenville, SC, where he participated in the Furman Advantage Research program, studying religion in American politics. John also earned his Master's degree.


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