The difference between Manslaughter and Murder

Manslaughter is usually defined as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. 


If you watch enough T.V. cop shows, you may know that malice aforethought means the intention to kill or harm — the premeditation element required in 1st degree murder cases.


Generally, the difference between manslaughter and murder is that manslaughter is the result of an accident, heat of passion, or some other act in which the person does not have the necessary mental state to commit a murder.  That is to say, the defendant engaged in no pre-planning, no "cool calculation," and had no predetermination to commit the act.

Two types of Manslaughter:

Voluntary Manslaughter


Voluntary manslaughter occurs when one person kills another person in the heat of passion and without planning beforehand. Consider the jealous husband who comes home from work early and unannounced and finds his wife in bed with another man.  Well, you know the rest— and it doesn't end well for the wife or the wife's lover.  But it's not murder, it's voluntary manslaughter.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary Manslaughter, also known as negligent homicide, occurs when a death is an indirect result of recklessness or culpable negligence.  

Penalties for Manslaughter

The crime of Manslaughter is a Second Degree Felony in Florida and punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.  Because it scores high under Florida's guideline scheme, if you're convicted of manslaughter, you're looking at almost 10 years in state prison (absent the filing of a downward departure motion), with a 15 year maximum sentence.

A word about Aggravated Manslaughter

Aggravated manslaughter is an enhanced charge triggered by certain circumstances.  Those include negligently causing the death of an elderly person; negligently causing the death of a person less than 18 years old; and negligently causing the death of fire or rescue personnel.  Aggravated manslaughter is a first-degree felony punishable by life imprisonment.

What about Manslaughter with a weapon or firearm?

While not a specific element of Manslaughter, if the jury determines a weapon or firearm was used in the commission of the Manslaughter, the crime will be reclassified from a felony of the second degree to a felony of the first degree. 


Some viable defenses to Manslaughter

Excusable Homicide

The killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the following three circumstances:

  1. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or

  2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or

  3. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.

Justifiable Homicide

The killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if done while resisting an attempt by someone to kill you or to commit a felony against you.

The above defense and many others may be available to you.  Which is why it's critically important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to develop an effective defense strategies and hold the State Attorney's Office to their burden of proving the crime of Manslaughter beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt.  

There is hope

If you or a loved one is arrested and charged with Manslaughter, please call our 24-hour telephone number 305-461-1066 to set up an appointment and free consultation so we can assess your particular case and provide you with the best legal advice on how to proceed.  Your meeting with me will be strictly confidential and subject to the attorney-client privilege.

I want to hear your side of the story.

Rick Hermida

State and Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

55 Merrick Way ~ Suite 212

Coral Gables, Florida 33134

305-461-1116 (Office)

305-461-1066 (24 Hours)

We are solely a Criminal Defense Law Firm.  That's all we do and all we have done since 1987.