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Manslaughter and murder charges are both serious felonies in which the accused is charged with being responsible for another person’s death. However, the nature of the crimes and the potential penalties differ greatly. In many cases, a criminal defense attorney will fight to have a client charged with manslaughter rather than murder because of the less serious consequences of a conviction. If you are charged with murder or manslaughter, it is essential to find a criminal defense attorney in Denver, CO, with experience in these kinds of cases. Here is a look at manslaughter and murder charges differ and the impact the type of charge could have on the potential sentence.


Manslaughter refers to crimes that occur in the heat of passion or unintentional deaths that are caused by negligence or reckless behavior. There are two types of manslaughter charges: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when one person kills another in the heat of passion. This means the person was provoked and kills because of that provocation in the moment, without any time to cool down. Involuntary manslaughter refers to negligent or reckless conduct that results in a death. The line between involuntary manslaughter and murder is more subjective than voluntary manslaughter and murder. The distinction usually comes down to the severity of the negligence or recklessness involved. Manslaughter charges almost always carry lighter potential sentences than murder charges.


Murder refers to intentional killings that we not committed in self-defense and that involved at least some degree of premeditation. As with manslaughter, there are two types of murder charges: second degree and first degree. Second-degree murder is the closest to involuntary manslaughter, and often, a criminal defense attorney will attempt to get a second-degree murder charged reduced to involuntary manslaughter. Second-degree murder occurs when extremely reckless behavior results in a death. First-degree murder, the most serious type of murder charge, refers to killings that were intentional and pre-meditated. For instance, if a killing is not committed in the heat of passion but rather after a cooling down period, the charge may go from voluntary manslaughter to first-degree murder. Murder convictions carry longer sentences, up to life without parole, or in some states, the death penalty.

Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder Charges