What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

As far as the law is concerned, there are numerous ways to define a homicide. These definitions will play a major role in the accused person’s course of action, including what type of lawyer they should seek. If you have been charged with manslaughter, you will need a manslaughter defense attorney in Tampa.

Definitions of a homicide can be broken into two main categories: murder and manslaughter. There are subcategories within these categories as well.


The words “murder” and “homicide” are commonly interchanged, but in reality, the two are not synonymous with one another.

The word “homicide” is the act of one person killing another person. It is best to think of this as the general category of killing, or the umbrella term under which both murder and manslaughter fall.

Legally speaking, murder is defined as a form of criminal homicide by a sane person, sometimes with aforethought (premeditation). A criminal homicide is one that is unjustifiable, as opposed to an excusable or justifiable homicide.

An excusable or justifiable homicide can be a homicide that occurred in self-defense, while defending another person, or in the line of duty.


Manslaughter applies when the offender is less culpable. This distinction is usually defined by the offender’s mindset or the circumstances surrounding the homicide.

Manslaughter can be categorized into two main types: voluntary and involuntary.

Voluntary Manslaughter

In order for a homicide to be categorized as voluntary manslaughter, there must be proof of adequate provocation. This means that there was sufficient reason for an otherwise sane person to be moved to sudden and intense passion.

Courts usually accept the following items as adequate provocation:

  • Actions which were enough to deprive a normal person of self-control
  • The provocation actually provoked the defendant
  • The time between provocation and killing was not long enough for a reasonable person to cool off
  • Defendant did not cool off

Involuntary Manslaughter

For a homicide to fall under the category of involuntary manslaughter, it must be unintentional and due to lack of care.

Involuntary manslaughter usually falls into two categories:

  1. Death due to criminal negligence or recklessness
  2. Death due to a misdemeanor or low-level felony

One common example of involuntary manslaughter is when someone drives under the influence and kills a pedestrian, passenger, or someone in another car.

For a free consultation with an experienced manslaughter defense lawyer in Tampa, contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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