While both are arguably the most severe criminal charge that you could ever find yourself facing, it is important to note that these are two distinct charges – with different definitions. In the below article, we will discuss each charge, as well as what makes each one different.
In the state of California, the criminal charge of homicide is taken extremely seriously; arguably, it is the most serious of criminal charges. Defined under §187 of the California Penal Code, murder is described as the unlawful and knowing killing of another human being – it is also specified that for murder to be committed, it must have been done with previous forethought. It is also expressly stated in the law that for murder to be committed, there must have either been express or implied malice that was coupled with deliberate action. Put simply, murder is not legally considered to be an accident. It is something that deliberately occurs with intention because it was planned – not because something coincidental happened.
On the other hand, the other form of homicide in the state of California is what is known as manslaughter. This is the more “mild" version of homicide as this is defined as the involuntary killing of another person. This can either be classified as a voluntary act where it was done in the “heat of the moment" before you had a chance to cool down. For example, it could be considered voluntary manslaughter if someone came home to find their spouse committing adultery and they reacted violently before thinking their actions through.
The other form of manslaughter is what is known as involuntary and is essentially an accidental homicide. This can be something that occurred while committing a felony, but not directly attempting to cause injury or harm to another person. It can also mean that you were acting grossly negligent – as a result of which another person died. This can also be classified as vehicular manslaughter where actions carried behind the wheel of a vehicle caused another person to die – for example, if you were driving drunk.
Typically, murder is considered to be the more severe crime as it is often the result of direct forethought and planning. This is done after someone has had the chance to cool down and is a malicious act. While manslaughter still carries serious penalties which can be life-altering in nature, by working with an aggressive criminal defense attorney, you will be able to fight to protect your legal rights. There are defenses that can be mounted to help promote your innocence if you have been criminally charged with something of this nature; for example, it could be argued that you were acting in self-defense or that you were defending another. It could also be proven that you were mentally ill or that you were acting under duress.