What’s the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

Homicide is a general term used when the death of a person is caused by another. The specific criminal charge depends on the circumstances and the intent of the person responsible. There are different murder and manslaughter charges that are possible.

Murder reflects intentionally taking someone’s life. Unintentionally taking a life is manslaughter. Both charges are among the most serious anyone can face in Charlotte. An attorney who is experienced in defending clients of violent crimes is critical.

Types of Murder Charges

North Carolina defines two levels of murder. First-degree murder is the most serious, but second-degree murder can also mean a lifetime behind bars.

The definitions and punishments of murder are as follows:

  • First Degree Murder. This charge can be filed if the death of the person was caused by a weapon of mass destruction, poison, imprisonment, starving, torture, lying in wait, or any other kind of premeditated, willful killing. A person can also be charged with murder in the first degree if they unintentionally kill another while committing or attempting to commit a felony with the use of a deadly weapon. Potential consequences of this felony include life in prison without parole. The death penalty by lethal injection is also possible in North Carolina.
  • Second Degree Murder. While less serious than first degree, murder in the second degree also carries severe consequences. This charge is filed when the killing is intentional but not premeditated. Taking the life of another during an act of road rage is an example. Another example is if someone intended to seriously harm another, but the person died. Second-degree charges can be classified as either a B1 or B2 felony. Prison sentences range from 94 months (almost 8 years) to life without parole.

If a child is born but dies as a result of injuries inflicted while they were still in the womb, the perpetrator can also be charged with the murder of the child.

Types of Manslaughter Charges

Like murder, there are different types of manslaughter charges.

The definitions and punishments of manslaughter are as follows:

  • Voluntary Manslaughter. This charge does mean the act was intentional but not premeditated. The killing occurred in the heat of the moment. The circumstances usually include that the perpetrator was provoked in a way that an ordinary person would be pushed to do something outside of their control. This class D felony carries a prison sentence of 38 to 160 months (3 to 13-plus years).
  • Involuntary Manslaughter. The unintentional killing of another due to carelessness. This Class F felony can result in a prison sentence between 10 and 41 months.
  • Vehicular Manslaughter. This manslaughter is defined as unintentionally causing the death of another person while in violation of the state’s DWI laws. This Class D felony is punishable by a prison sentence between 3 and 13 years. If the guilty motorist has a prior DWI, the minimum time behind bars increases to more than 5 years.

The sentencing guidelines range based on numerous factors, including whether the person has previous felony crimes on their record. Mitigating and aggravating elements are considered.

Knowledgeable Private Counsel for Criminal Charges

At Jetton & Meredith, PLLC, we have decades of experience in defending clients facing criminal charges in the Mecklenburg County area. We analyze every aspect of your case and invest the time that public defenders generally are unable to do.

Our seasoned attorneys strive to get criminal charges dropped. When that’s impossible, we seek plea deals that minimize penalties and maximize your ability to move forward. We also stand ready to vigorously argue your case before a judge and jury.

The sooner you contact us, the earlier we can begin fighting for your rights. Schedule a free consultation by calling (704) 931-5535 or submitting our online form.