What is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder?

When you are accused of killing another person in Rochester, you will likely be facing either murder or manslaughter charges under New York law. Yet understanding the differences between these charges can be complicated, especially since the language in the statutes sounds relatively similar. If you are facing allegations that involve killing a person or taking a person’s life, it is critical to seek advice from an experienced Rochester criminal defense lawyer.

Many people assume that the key difference between murder charges and manslaughter charges is intent, or whether the person accused of the crime intended to hurt another person. While the lack of intent usually does result in certain manslaughter charges rather than murder charges, a person can also face manslaughter charges in situations where they intended to cause harm, and second-degree murder charges where there was no intent to kill another person. Our firm can provide you with more information about the key distinctions between murder and manslaughter charges.

Murder Charges Are More Serious Than Manslaughter Charges

Generally speaking, murder charges are more serious than manslaughter charges, and a murder conviction will result in more severe penalties than a manslaughter conviction. However, there are many more distinctions that are important to understand.

Both Murder and Manslaughter Can Be Charged in Different Degrees

To understand some of the more nuanced distinctions between homicide and manslaughter, it is critical to know that both types of offenses can be charged to different degrees. First-degree murder is a more serious charge than second-degree murder. Manslaughter can also be charged in the first or second degree, and first-degree manslaughter charges are more serious and come with more severe penalties upon conviction than second-degree manslaughter charges.

Prosecution Must Prove Age and Intent to Cause Death for First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder under New York law can only be charged when the defendant was at least 18 years old at the time the alleged offense was committed (in other words, a minor cannot face first-degree murder charges in New York). Further, first-degree murder charges usually require the prosecution to prove that the defendant has the intent to cause the death of another person and either caused that person’s death or a third-party’s death.

Second-Degree Murder Can Be Charged Even Without Intent to Kill

Intent to kill is not necessarily required in all second-degree murder charges in Rochester. While a person can face second-degree murder charges when they intend to cause a person’s death and actually cause the death, murder in the second degree can also be charged in the following circumstances: when a person is alleged to have caused another person’s death in the commission of a felony, for hire, or in the showing of a depraved indifference for human life.

Manslaughter Charges Are Generally Distinguished Between Voluntary and Involuntary

In general, manslaughter charges in the first degree are reserved for cases where a person intended to cause harm. Differently, second-degree manslaughter charges are for involuntary manslaughter, or situations where a person may not have intended to cause harm but behaved in a reckless manner and did cause a death. However, intentionally assisting a suicide is charged as second-degree manslaughter.

Contact a Homicide Defense Attorney in Rochester

If you are facing any kind of homicide charges, you should seek advice from a Rochester homicide defense attorney as soon as you can. Contact King Law for help with your case.


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