Loss of human life can never be justified. However, manslaughter and murder exist in law; in an attempt to make room for natural failings and human nature. The two crimes are both unlawful but differ in several ways.

The way of proving, defenses, and penalties are the main aspects that differentiate murder from manslaughter. Based on the seriousness of these violent crimes, accused persons need the guidance and representation of an Orange County criminal defense lawyer.

What Differentiates Manslaughter from Murder?

The accused person’s state of mind and the circumstances surrounding the incident differentiate manslaughter from murder.


One commits murder when they kill a person after having malicious aforethought. This could be implied or express. Implied malice is when the defendant knew that their action is dangerous and can lead to the loss of life, and they still went ahead and did what they did. On the other hand, express malice is where the accused had intentions to actually take away the life of another.

Murder can be classified as first-degree, second-degree, or capital murder, depending on the circumstances. If you are unsure about the type of murder charges brought against you or a loved one, a Laguna Hills violent crimes lawyer can shed some light on the case.


The killing in manslaughter is still unlawful, but it is committed without malice. However, it involves disregard for human life and can be involuntary or voluntary. If the defendant kills someone without intending, for instance, while DUI or while committing a misdemeanor, the defendant can be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary manslaughter can happen when you are trying to defend yourself or others, or in the heat of the moment.

How Does the Prosecution Differentiate Evidence for Manslaughter and Murder?

A perfect court battle involves a prosecutor proving the defendant’s guilt, and the latter’s defense team planting doubts regarding it. And proving manslaughter is different from proving a homicide.

Involuntary manslaughter

You cannot be convicted of involuntary manslaughter unless the prosecution proves to the judge that:

  • You intended to commit the non-felony crime that led to the death
  • Your careless or reckless activity caused the victim’s death

Voluntary Manslaughter

Here, the prosecution must bring forth evidence to show that:

  • The defendant was provoked to seriously injure or kill the victim, for example, physical altercations between the two, a murder of a family member, or adultery
  • It happened in the heat of passion or during a quarrel

Vehicular Manslaughter

You may have to deal with this charge if you kill someone while driving. This is what might have happened:

  • You knowingly caused the accident for financial gain
  • You did a lawful act that carries the risk of death
  • You did a non-lawful maneuver

First-Degree Murder

Some of the factors that should be proven before a first-degree murder conviction include:

  • The defendant acted expressly maliciously in their intent to kill
  • The defendant acted implicitly in their disregard of the victim’s safety
  • The defendant was deliberate in their actions
  • The defendant premeditated the murder
  • The deceased lost their lives during a felony like kidnapping, rape, or torture
  • The defendant used armor-piercing ammunition and explosive devices such as bombs, poison, and weapons of mass destruction

Second-Degree Murder

You cannot be convicted of second-degree murder in California until it can be proved that:

  • There was intent
  • There was malice

Capital Murder

There are a number of special circumstances that can lead to a capital murder conviction. They include:

  • Murder to benefit a street gang
  • Murder in a hate crime
  • Murder of a public servant, for instance, judges, EMT, firefighters, and police officers
  • Killing a witness to prevent them from testifying
  • Killing for financial gain

How Different is a Murder Defense and a Manslaughter Defense?

It is hard for the prosecution to take advantage of the situation if you have invested in an experienced Orange County violent crimes lawyer. A team of legal experts with many years in the courtroom knows just what is needed for every murder or manslaughter case.

Involuntary Manslaughter

A defendant can be relieved of the charges of involuntary manslaughter if they can prove to the court that:

  • The death was an accidental killing and does not reflect reckless or careless conduct on the part of the defendant
  • The defendant acted in self-defense
  • Your actions stemmed from a lack of knowledge
  • Your actions were a reasonable mistake

Voluntary Manslaughter

Your Orange County manslaughter defense lawyer can assure you of your freedom if they can gather pieces of evidence to show the prosecution that:

  • You acted in self-defense
  • You were involuntarily intoxicated when you acted
  • You were insane or had no mental capacity to differentiate between right and wrong

First-Degree Murder

Count yourself lucky if your legal defense team can find evidence to show that:

  • You did not plan to or pre-meditate the killing
  • You acted unlawfully while trying to defend yourself or others
  • You lacked the capacity to commit murder, or you were insane

Second-Degree Murder

If you want to be acquitted of second-degree murder, your murder defense lawyer in California can use the following defenses:

  • You were trying to defend others or yourself
  • Insanity
  • Lack of mental capacity
  • The death happened in a moment of passion
  • The action was provoked

Are Manslaughter and Murder Penalties Similar?

The sentencing for manslaughter and murder differs significantly. Notably, murder attracts harsher penalties.

Involuntary manslaughter

If the prosecution has strong evidence that makes a conviction inevitable, the defendant can be convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Notably, this crime is classified under felonies, and your prior criminal record can impact your sentencing in California.

But here are some of the penalties:

  • 2-4 years in a county or state prison

Voluntary Manslaughter

Convicts of voluntary manslaughter risk the following penalties according to the criminal law:

  • Three, six, or eleven years in a California state prison

First-Degree Murder

If the prosecution’s evidence convinces the jury that you are guilty of first-degree murder, here is what might be waiting for you:

  • 25 years to life in prison
  • Life imprisonment without an opportunity for parole

Second-Degree Murder

Similar to most serious crimes, the judge considers your criminal record in determining your specific sentencing. You can get:

  • 15 years to life in jail
  • 20 years to life in jail for a drive-by shooting
  • 25 years to life in jail if a peace officer was killed

Capital Murder

Being the most serious form of violent crimes offense, capital murder can be punished as follows:

  • Life imprisonment without possible parole
  • Death penalty through lethal injections executions

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicle manslaughter can wobble and be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Convicts can deal with:

  • Up to a year in prison
  • Up to 10 years in jail

Award-Winning Attorneys Defending the Accused in Southern California

The penalties of violent crimes in California can impact the defendant’s life for the worst. Apart from losing one’s freedom, life will never be the same after prison – if you are lucky not to get life imprisonment.

All these can be prevented with proper representation. The team of attorneys at SoCal Law Network can fight for your rights and freedom. Schedule a FREE consultation with us today by calling 949-305-7995 and explore the possibilities of your case.