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What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

On Behalf of | Aug 5, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

We often hear the terms murder and manslaughter used interchangeably. But they are two distinct crimes, with different definitions and parameters.

Understanding the difference between them begins with understanding the motivation behind the crime.

How does New Jersey define murder?

In New Jersey, murder is when someone intentionally and purposefully causes the death of another person. It is also considered murder if you intentionally and purposefully cause grievous harm to another person that ultimately results in their death.

New Jersey will charge you with felony murder if a person dies while you are committing a felony, such as:

  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Sexual assault
  • Carjacking
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Criminal escape
  • Act of terrorism

How does New Jersey define manslaughter?

Manslaughter in New Jersey is when your reckless conduct causes the death of another person, but there is no evidence of malice or forethought.

New Jersey will charge you with voluntary manslaughter if you cause the death of another person after being strongly provoked. This death may be intentionally caused, but happens in the heat of the moment and the emotional context becomes a mitigating circumstance.

Involuntary manslaughter refers to a case where the death of another results from a crime that is not a felony. This is also the case when criminal negligence or reckless conduct results in death.

How are the

penalties different?

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony and carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison. Murder is a first-degree felony, and carries a potential life sentence.

Both murder and manslaughter are serious crimes with life-changing penalties. Understanding the differences can help you construct a solid defense.