Generally speaking there is a difference between murder and manslaughter, but to the public it may seem there is a difference without a distinction. Legal definitions are often hard to explain to a non-lawyer.
To begin with, the most serious crime in the U.S. and other places is murder, often punishable by death or life without parole, depending on the state where the murder took place. Having said that, if a death cannot be classified as a murder it is usually considered to be a form of manslaughter and does not get the same kind of severe penalties.
“What puts murder on a different page is the mental status of the offender,” said Daniel H. Wannamaker, of Wannamaker and Associates, an Austin, Texas law firm with offices in Dallas and Houston. Legally speaking, the mental component (mental state) is referred to as premeditated malice. “You might recognize the phrase in another form often found in crime novels and termed as “malice aforethought,” added Wannamaker. If there is no premeditation prior to the commission of the crime, then the act is usually classified as another form of homicide.
There are usually exceptions to this rule and the major one would be if a death happens during the commission of another felony, e.g. an armed robbery resulting in a death. “Basically the charge of murder results from the facts of the case itself, and each case is unique,” said Wannamaker. If a person knows what the police are booking them for, this makes it easier for a skilled criminal defense attorney to start fact gathering, investigating and sorting out what happened.
How a person is charged directly relates to the facts of the particular case and how the death, if there was one, occurred. This isn’t to say that a lesser offense is “lesser” in terms of penalties or consequences; it simply means the offense is not as great as premeditated murder. “There are many distinctions to be made between murder, manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, etc.,” explained Wannamaker. Knowing these various distinctions is the attorney’s job and one they are paid well to perform.
If a murder or manslaughter charge is looming on the horizon, don’t waste time thinking about the cost of a criminal defense attorney. Call Daniel H. Wannamaker, of Wannamaker and Associates, an Austin, Texas law firm with offices in Dallas and Houston and ensure justice is served.