Understanding the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

When one person dies due to the actions, or inactions, of another person, the police and courts are going to get involved. Fortunately, the legal system in Illinois recognizes that there is a significant difference between someone killing their spouse after months of planning, and someone accidentally killing another party because of distracted driving. In the first case, the person will be charged with murder, while in the second, they will likely be charged with manslaughter.

Legal Definitions

When trying to understand the real differences between murder and manslaughter, it is a good idea to look at a brief legal definition of each:

  • Murder – The Illinois (and US) legal system defines murder as using a violent means in order to deprive another human being of life, with malicious intent.
  • Manslaughter – Manslaughter is defined as the taking of another human life. Note that there is no mention of malicious intent with manslaughter.

A Matter of Degrees

Both murder and manslaughter are further broken down based on the details of how the victim was killed. Murder charges are broken down into three separate degrees, which are:

  • 1st Degree Murder – Any murder that was premeditated can be classified in this way.
  • 2nd Degree Murder – When the murder took place during the commission of another felony. For example, if someone murders a homeowner when they were robbing the house.
  • 3rd Degree Murder – If someone kills another party when they only intended to cause them harm, it will be a 3rd-degree charge. For example, if someone gets into a bar fight and kills the other party.

Manslaughter is broken up into two different categories. These categories are:

  • Voluntary Manslaughter – This is when someone is strongly provoked, and an individual kills someone “in the heat of passion.” While the intent to harm is certainly there in these cases, it was not premeditated.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter – In this case the killing, or even harm, was unintentional. For example, if someone runs over and kills someone while texting and driving, they will likely be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

While both of these charges are extremely serious, the penalties are quite different. Murder comes with much more severe penalties, with 1st-degree murder being the most serious. The penalties for both murder and manslaughter will often include significant prison time, large financial penalties, probation, and more.

Don’t Face Charges Alone

If you or a loved one has been charged with either murder or manslaughter, it is absolutely essential to have an experienced attorney there to provide you with a strong legal defense. We have helped many people facing these types of serious charges, and we would be honored to help you too. Please contact us to discuss your options going forward.

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Abdallah Law

Abdallah Law has been a successful law firm serving the people of Chicago and the surrounding area for years. This success can be attributed to one thing: Our team. At Abdallah Law, protecting our clients’ rights and safeguarding their liberties is the driving force of everything we do.

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