What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

person arrested in handcuffs

When someone dies at the hands of another, you may think that the charges are pretty cut and dry. However, not all forms of homicide are considered the same under the eyes of the law. While murder and manslaughter may be terms you’ve heard before, you may not know what makes them different. If you’re accused of taking the life of another person, it’s in your best interest to enlist the help of a talented Escambia County Criminal Defense Lawyer who can defend your rights. Please continue reading to learn what makes murder and manslaughter different in Florida.

How Do Murder and Manslaughter Differ?

Firstly, homicide is the killing of another person. As mentioned above, there are different types of homicide, including murder and manslaughter. The primary factor that distinguishes these charges is intent. Manslaughter is defined as killing someone without planning the crime ahead of time. Essentially, it occurs when a person unintentionally kills someone. Manslaughter doesn’t involve malice aforethought. The absence of the malice aforethought means this crime involves less moral blame than murder. It’s important to note that malic aforethought is the intention to kill or harm with reckless disregard for human life. Murder, on the other hand, is killing someone by planning the crime ahead of time. Essentially, it’s a premeditated crime, where someone intentionally sets out to kill another person.

What Are the Potential Penalties?

While manslaughter is a serious crime, the punishment is often less than that for murder due to the lack of intent. Nevertheless, they can both be charged as first or second-degree crimes.


In Florida, manslaughter is charged as a second-degree felony, which can result in a term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years and a fine of up to $10,000. There’s also a mandatory minimum of serving 9 1/4 years if convicted.

  • Voluntary Manslaughter: This is often referred to as a “heat of passion” crime, as it occurs when an individual is strongly provoked under circumstances that would provoke any reasonable person or kills in the heart of passion due to an emotional response.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter: This refers to an unintentional homicide that arises from an offender who was criminally negligent or reckless conduct that resulted in someone’s death.


Homicides that are classified as first-degree murders are the most serious crimes that carry the harshest penalties. For first-degree, you face decades to live in prison without the possibility of parole. Second-degree murder carries lesser penalties but still results in decades of imprisonment.

  • Premeditated Killing: This occurs when an individual is conscious of the decision to kill another person.
  • Felony Murder: This occurs when the murder happens while carrying out a qualifying crime or attempting to carry out a felony. Even if the offender didn’t personally kill the victim, they may still be charged.
  • Homicides Involving the Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substances: If an individual dies from a drug overdose, they may penalize the drug dealer or distributor.

Facing a murder or manslaughter charge is no laughing matter. At The Law Office of James M. Burns, we understand your future is on the line. Our determined legal team will help you explore available defenses to determine the best legal option for your circumstances. Contact us today to discuss your case and learn how we will tirelessly fight for you.