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What is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Homicide?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

What is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Homicide?

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Manslaughter and Homicide in Texas

Most people in Texas have heard of the crimes called manslaughter and homicide. In fact, most people may know that these two charges are issued in cases where someone loses his or her life at the hands of another person.

However, not everyone may know just what distinguishes these two criminal offenses from one another. While it is true that they both can refer to cases of violence that end in death, they are very distinct charges that have different implications. Learning the difference between the two can help people understand more about criminal charges that they may encounter.

What Is Manslaughter?

Both manslaughter and murder fall into the category of homicide. Homicide refers to the act of one person taking the life of another person. The primary factor that distinguishes murder from manslaughter is the intent of the person who commits the fateful act.

In cases of manslaughter, a person may kill another person without having the intent to actually end their life. This may sound unusual, but it is a very important distinction.

A person who is charged with manslaughter may face prosecution in court that attempts to prove several things about the case. These factors may include:

  • The intent of the defendant to cause harm
  • The recklessness of the defendant
  • Actual steps that the defendant took to cause harm
  • These are all important steps that the prosecution may try to prove in a manslaughter case.

For example, suppose that Alan and Rick get into a fight in a bar. Alan insults Rick several times until eventually Rick rushes Alan with a knife. Rick stabs Alan after a scuffle and Alan is badly injured. Later, Alan is rushed to the hospital where he eventually dies of his wounds.

The prosecution may use evidence from this case to charge Rick with manslaughter. First, they will argue that because Rick rushed at Alan, he demonstrated intent to cause Alan harm. Next, they may argue that charging at a person with a knife drawn in a crowded bar clearly demonstrates recklessness. Finally, they may argue that Rick made actual steps to scuffle with Alan and harm him with the knife.

Taking all of these elements together, the prosecution may argue that the have sufficient evidence to convict Rick with manslaughter. The fact that Alan insulted Rick first or that Rick did not actually intend to cause Alan’s death may not matter in the trial. It may simply be enough to show that Rick met the requirements for a manslaughter conviction.

What Is Homicide?

In broad terms, homicide refers to the act of one person killing another person. In legal terms, however, homicide can be another term for manslaughter. That is, homicide means taking the life of another person without criminal intent.

Criminal homicide, on the other hand, refers to the intentional, unjustifiable killing of another person. This crime, also known as murder, is punished much more severely than manslaughter.

Criminal homicide, or murder, has several factors that distinguish it from manslaughter. Criminal homicide can involve:

  • The intent to kill, not just harm
  • Malice aforethought, or the planning of a killing
  • Steps taken to ensure the death of another person

Imagine the previous scenario in a different light. At the bar, Alan insults Rick several times. Rick is angry and leaves the bar. He goes home to pick up his gun. He returns to the bar and waits for Alan to exit. As soon as Alan enters the parking lot, Rick shoots him repeatedly until he is dead.

Of course, this is a very different scenario from the manslaughter case. In this event, Rick went home to retrieve a gun, a much more lethal weapon than a knife. The prosecution may argue that any reasonable person would know that a gun is more likely to cause death than a knife.

Next, the prosecution could argue that Rick had time on the drive to and from the bar to think about his plan. They may argue that Rick had enough time to carefully consider his next step before firmly deciding to kill Alan. They could say that this demonstrates malice aforethought.

Finally, the prosecution could argue that because Rick waited for a length of time for Alan to exit the bar, he clearly took steps to carry out his plan. They may try to argue that there is sufficient evidence to convict Rick of murder.

Legal Defenses

In either of the scenarios listed above, there may be many opportunities for a defense attorney to argue for the defendant’s innocence. The defense may also negotiate a plea deal so that the defendant can be convicted of a lesser charge. In any case, as soon as homicide charges are filed, it’s important to hire an attorney as soon as possible.

If you’ve been arrested for manslaughter or homicide in Houston or surrounding areas, contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros. We can help protect your rights and preserve your freedom. Call 832-752-5972 or email today for a free, confidential consultation.

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