What Is The Difference Between Murder And Manslaughter In California?

Homicide is a term generally used when a person kills
someone. Typically, it falls into two basic categories, i.e. manslaughter and
murder. This distinction is critical between the two. If you are facing
criminal charges for causing the death of a person in California, you need to
be aware of this distinction. The difference
between murder and manslaughter
convictions can mean whether you will spend
the rest of your life behind bars or spend less time, with a possibility of
gaining parole.

Understanding the differences between manslaughter and murder

To understand the difference between murder &
manslaughter, you must try to understand the state of the killer’s mind. Their
intentions when killing makes all the difference and also help the court decide
the duration of punishment.

What is Murder?

In the state of California, they define murder as killing
someone with malicious aforethought. It means the murderer kills someone fully
knowing and cognizant of their actions as well as their consequences. Murder is
usually committed by the murderer with a conscious disregard for the life or
rights of another human(s).

For conviction of a murder, the prosecutor must prove
without a shadow of a doubt that the defendant wanted a person dead, made a
plan to kill, and executed said plan fully aware of their actions. In
California, murder is further broken down into two subcategories;

First-degree murder

It is the highest degree of murder, and it requires proof of
premeditation and intention to kill. The defendant must have malicious
intentions before committing the crime. Several factors can further increase
the potential punishment of first-degree murder, like;

  • Using explosives or other incendiary or
    destructive devices to commit murder
  • Poisoning someone to death
  • Using ammunition designed to penetrate armor
  • Torturing a victim before committing murder

Please keep in mind that committing a felony that results in
the death of a person(s) will be counted as first-degree murder in the state of
California, whether the murder was expected or premeditated or not.

Second-degree murder

This umbrella term contains all kinds of killings that do
not fall under the category of first-degree murder. Premeditation is not a
strict requirement in second-degree murder. Instead, the second-degree murder
must include a defendant to intentionally commit (or fail to commit) an act
dangerous to another human (s). Also, the defendant must know at the time of
the act that committing or abstaining from it may end up killing someone. The
defendant must have acted or not acted deliberately in a way that proves their
disregard for human life.

What is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter involves an unlawful killing of another
person(s). However, the homicide is committed without any malice, yet it still
involves conscious disregard for human life. For example, killing someone in an
accident when driving above the speed limit will count as manslaughter without
considering extenuating circumstances.

Manslaughter is either voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary
manslaughter involves committing a homicide in the heat of the moment or your
own or someone else’s defense. Involuntary manslaughter refers to a homicide
committed as a result of an accident, recklessness, or negligence.

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