By: Mark Diaz
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What Is The Difference Between Murder And Manslaughter?
The simplest way to explain that is, one deals with intentional conduct, and one is not necessarily intentional, but more likely reckless. So murder, generally speaking, is when a person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of another person.
Different Types Of Murder
If you intended to commit serious bodily injury to someone but it resulted in death, that can also be charged as murder. Then we have felony murder, which means during the commission of another felony, you ended up killing somebody.
A good example of that would be, the accused breaks into someone else’s apartment to rob them. The accused then kills the tenant in the apartment to effectuate the rest of the robbery. That would be felony murder.
Then we have capital murder, capital murder is distinguishable because that’s where the state can seek the death penalty. If they do not seek the death penalty, then you could get capital life, which means life without parole. There are various ways to be charged with capital murder.
In addition to felony murder, it can be multiple kills. I have tried capital murder in that situation. My client went into an establishment with the intent to kill someone, and he did. Then when he was trying to leave the establishment, another citizen tried to apprehend him, they got into a tussle, and my client shot him, and he died as well. My client was charged with capital murder because it was two people in the same criminal episode. He got life without the possibility of parole.
Now we have manslaughter. A lot of people who are charged with murder wish to have their case reduced to manslaughter because while regular murder is a first-degree felony, meaning a minimum of five years, a maximum of 99 years or life, and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
You are not eligible for probation for the offense of murder, per statute. Lots of people charged with murder would love to have their case reduced to manslaughter because it’s a second-degree felony, which carries a range of punishment of two to 20 years.
The problem is, to get manslaughter you would have to have conducted yourself in a reckless manner resulting in the death of another person. There are a lot of ways that you could do reckless things that would result in the demise of another person, firing a weapon in a metropolitan area, or at the beach without aiming at someone, but you end up hitting someone in the head and killing them.
You had no intent, but it was clearly reckless conduct. So that would be manslaughter. In the capital trial that I mentioned with the two deaths, I attempted to argue to the jury that the second shooting was not intentional, and just happened when they were rolling around on the ground. Since he didn’t know that person, he couldn’t have had any intent to kill him.
The jury did not believe that. It’s just an example of when we’re on trial on these cases, as defense attorneys, we will try to find a way to argue something to get a lesser included jury instruction so that a jury can find you guilty of a lesser offense than murder.
We do that in lots of trials, if a lesser included offense is available, we would try to get that to the jury so that we could get a lesser sentence. If you were facing life and got a two to 20-year sentence, that’s a win.
When we get to manslaughter, it can get more complicated because there is intoxication manslaughter. I would save that for another discussion and probably invite Thomas in because he has a lot of extensive training in dealing with the complications of a DWI.
Intoxication, though, if you think about it, kind of follows with manslaughter, meaning, reckless conduct. There was no intent. Most people who get a DWI do not intend to commit a crime. It’s not a specific intent crime. Neither is manslaughter.
The intent is irrelevant. In a manslaughter case what is relevant is the conduct, or your actions, and were they so reckless that they lead to the death of another person. Another way we see manslaughter charged is also vehicle cases, but not involving intoxication.
We see this a lot in Galveston, car clubs will come to the island. Many of them will drive extremely recklessly, either on the way here or once they get here. This usually happens with more of the performance vehicles when they have clubmates. They’ll come weaving in and out of traffic.
They’re all together, traveling at a high rate of speed. I’m not talking about racing, because that’s another distinguishable offense that we can do on another day. We have at least two racing cases pending here in the office right now. They didn’t result in injury to anyone. So we don’t have that issue.
If you had a specific question about what conduct would be manslaughter or murder, I could obviously get into that with you if you want to email me. However, it’s hard without the fact scenario. It’s hard for me to tell you the difference other than, you know, murder is intentional, while manslaughter is born from reckless conduct.
It is not typically easy to get a murder reduced to manslaughter since the murder is going to allege intentional conduct. If it alleges intentional conduct, unless it’s a very odd fact scenario, it’s hard to argue that it was reckless. So while they are related in that they resulted in the death of a person, they are vastly different in application and in trying to get a reduction from murder to manslaughter.
Reach Out To Our Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyers
Mark Diaz is an experienced Galveston County criminal defense lawyer. If you have been charged with a serious crime like manslaughter, homicide, or any other crime call Mark at 409) 515-6170 or reach him via this contact form.