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Differences between criminal homicide, murder and manslaughter

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

In the complex world of criminal law, understanding the various types of offenses can be daunting. This is particularly true when it comes to crimes involving the loss of life.

New Jersey law differentiates between criminal homicide, murder and manslaughter. Each carries its own set of definitions, requirements and penalties.

Criminal homicide

In New Jersey, criminal homicide constitutes the act of purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently causing the death of another human being. It serves as an umbrella term, under which murder and manslaughter fall.


Murder, a specific type of criminal homicide, occurs when the offender purposely or knowingly causes death or serious bodily harm resulting in death. There are also circumstances where causing a death while committing another felony can be murder, a concept known as felony murder.


Manslaughter in New Jersey divides into two categories: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter involves killing another in the heat of passion or a reasonable provocation. For example, if someone finds their spouse in a compromising position and reacts violently, leading to death, they might face charges of voluntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter usually involves reckless behavior that leads to a death. This could include causing a fatal car accident while driving recklessly.

Penalties for murder and manslaughter

The severity of the penalties for murder and manslaughter vary greatly. Murder is a first-degree crime in New Jersey and carries a penalty of 30 years to life imprisonment. Manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary, is a second-degree crime. The penalties for manslaughter can range from 5 to 10 years in prison.

Understanding the differences can provide valuable insight into the legal processes related to these serious crimes and can offer a clearer perspective on the profound impacts these charges can have on a person’s life.