When an incident leads to someone’s death, there can be a fine line between manslaughter and murder. In Pennsylvania, there’s a catch-all term known as criminal homicide, which is causing the death of another person negligently, knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly.
Criminal homicide is then split into two distinct groups: manslaughter and murder. You’ll realize there’s a huge penalties difference between the two crimes. Nonetheless, these two are serious offenses that will need the experience of a skilled Lemoyne criminal defense attorney.
Both offenses have specific elements the State will need to prove and specific punishments if convicted. The consequence of murder or manslaughter may be life imprisonment or even death, depending on what charge was brought forward. This makes it critical to know the difference between the two.
What Is the Main Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?
The main difference between murder and manslaughter in Pennsylvania is the intent or mindset of the alleged killer at the time of the crime. While murder is the malicious and intentional killing of another person, manslaughter is often unintentional or accidental through the actions or inactions of someone.
This slight difference will mean the difference during sentencing. For many criminal defense attorneys in Pennsylvania, knowing whether the crime is manslaughter or murder will be vital in building an effective defense strategy.
What Is Manslaughter in Pennsylvania?
If the defendant didn’t have an aforethought of committing the crime, then s/he may be charged with manslaughter. But if it was premeditated, it cannot be manslaughter. But manslaughter can also be voluntary or involuntary depending on the circumstances.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person acts recklessly and unlawfully to the extent of unintentionally killing someone else. Common examples include reckless driving or discharging a firearm in a crowd and someone dies. The intent wasn’t to kill, but it was a grossly negligent act. This is also the least harsh offense among all criminal homicide sentences.
Voluntary Manslaughter in Pennsylvania
Here, the person commits the crime due to a strong provocation or sudden, intense passion. This provocation could be from the victim or entirely someone else. For example, a husband discovers his wife is having an affair and kills the wife in the heat of the moment.
If the accused was in a fit of rage, passion, or under the influence, it should usually be considered voluntary manslaughter. Talk to a Lemoyne violent crimes attorney to determine if this can be reduced to an involuntary manslaughter charge.
There’s also a third type of manslaughter called vehicular manslaughter. This charge is reserved for drivers who unintentionally kill another person in a car accident. A driver can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if they are drunk driving and happen to run over and kill a pedestrian or cyclist.
How Is Murder Defined in Pennsylvania?
For a killing to qualify as murder, it must be intentional and plotted or be caused by a dangerous act with no regard to human life. Pennsylvania has three distinct types of murder charges.
First Degree Murder
This is the most serious crime in the state. It involves murder by lying in wait, poisoning, or other aforethought act. You will need an aggressive and experienced violent crimes attorney in Lemoyne to defend you in court.
Second Degree Murder
This charge is filed against a person who is committing a felony, and someone ends up dying, even if it was accidental. For instance, a person who commits a robbery may be charged with murder in the second degree if someone dies.
In a felony murder, there’s no requirement for an intent to kill element to be proven. An accomplice of the perpetrator is also likely to face second-degree murder charges.
Third Degree Murder
Third-degree murder is any other murder offense that doesn’t fall in either first or second murder charges. This means any other murder that wasn’t planned and didn’t occur while committing a felony will be categorized here. For instance, if someone shoots another person who eventually dies but did not have the intention to kill or was not in the process of committing a felony.
What Are the Penalties for Manslaughter and Murder in Pennsylvania?
- Involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to 10 years if the victim was a child below 12 years and was under the care of the defendant.
- Voluntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony carrying between 10 to 20 years in prison.
- First-degree murder carries mandatory life imprisonment or the death penalty with no possibility of parole.
- Second-degree murder is also punishable by a mandatory life in prison without parole.
- Third-degree murder is a first-degree felony punishable by 20-40 years in prison.
If you are incorrectly charged with a murder offense, you can receive very harsh penalties if convicted. Make sure that the charges are correct. Involve a Lemoyne violent crimes lawyer who will fight for your freedom.
What Defenses Can I Use Against Murder and Manslaughter Charges?
Once the charge against you is known, your Lemoyne violent crimes lawyer will now take the time to prepare a defense strategy for you. Our murder and manslaughter attorney in Lemoyne, PA, knows what to expect from the prosecution and will come prepared to challenge the charges on your behalf.
Some of the defenses to use against manslaughter and murder charges in Pennsylvania include:
- Unreliable witnesses
- Mental insanity
- No intent to commit a felony
- Protection of others
- Lack of corroboration
These are just some of the defense approaches you could use to fight a criminal homicide charge in Lemoyne. Take a step and discuss your case with a Lemoyne violent crimes lawyer who can formulate the best defense approach for your specific case.
Improve Your Chances of Beating a Criminal Homicide Charge in Pennsylvania
If you’re charged with manslaughter or murder, you may be feeling hopeless and worried about your freedom and reputation. The stakes are high if you’re accused of these crimes in Pennsylvania. That’s why you need a criminal defense attorney who can help you dismiss or reduce these charges.
Our violent crimes attorney will carefully investigate your case right from the initial arrest report. The prosecution won’t get away with building a flawed case against you if you work with an experienced manslaughter and murder attorney. Talk to us today to book a confidential meeting.