Difference between Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter

Homicide, murder, and manslaughter are three words that can make a person’s blood curl, as each of them essentially involves taking someone’s life. While watching or listening to the news, one might assume that all three words are used interchangeably. However, when murders are defined by degrees and the alleged killers receive contrasting penalties, it may create confusion in one’s mind. Even though each term implies that someone was killed at the hands of the defendant, the punishment varies with regard to motive, intention, purpose, and protocol of execution. Learning the difference between the three terms shall resolve your concerns:


‘Homicide’ is the word used by cops at every crime scene that involves a dead baby. It is an umbrella term that involves all kinds of killings, i.e. legal and illegal. You might be wondering that how can ending someone’s life be permissible by law? While nobody is supposed to take the law in their hands and exterminate human life, there are situations where it becomes inevitable and necessary. For instance, an individual may have to kill someone in self-defense, or in order to protect other innocent lives. If you counterattacked and accidentally killed someone who initiated violence, the law will not hold you responsible for his/her death. Homicide can be broken down into two main subcategorizes, i.e. murder and manslaughter.


Murder is the most ruthless form of a homicide, but the seriousness of every case or murder is defined by a certain degree. All murders involve illegal extermination of life, which is why the perpetrators are subject to harsh sentences. If a person is charged with first-degree murder, it implies that he/she deliberately killed someone, holding malice and strong motive. These types of murders are preplanned, well-staged, and elaborate; the murderer strikes at a time when the victim is most vulnerable, which makes the deed rather horrific. Typically, the defendant intended to kill the victim for a long time and is therefore deprived of any feelings of regret. An individual found guilty of first-degree murder can expect 25 years or a lifetime of imprisonment, and even death sentence in extreme cases.

A person charged with second-degree murder has executed the homicide with clear intention, though the act was spontaneous. For example, a man strangles his wife when he is overwhelmed by fury after catching her red-handed cheating on him. The man had no prior objective to kill his wife, but he was in his senses while he committed the crime. The penalty for the average second-degree murder is about 15 years of jail time.

Felony murder is a subset of first-degree murder that is known to be void of intention to kill a particular person. These charges generally imply that the culprit fortuitously took someone’s life in the event of committing another less violent crime; in a sense, the death can be viewed as collateral damage. For instance, a burglar kills the cashier when he/she refuses to cooperate and handover the cash.


Manslaughter may sound more intimidating than murder, but it is in effect a lesser crime. The crime has two subtypes, namely ‘involuntary manslaughter’ and ‘voluntary manslaughter’. Involuntary manslaughter implies that the person had to intention to kill, but caused someone’s demise due to negligence or reckless behavior. Driving under the influence and running over a pedestrian is one example. Voluntary manslaughter suggests that the person deliberately engaged in a life threatening activity because he/she was not in their right mind.

If you or a loved one was wrongfully accused of murder or manslaughter, Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett, P.A. can help you build a strong defense case and prevent incrimination.

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Dain Dreyer is a highly qualified and dedicated Texas Personal Injury & Family Law Lawyer who can help you in your time of need.

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