Rely On Law Office Of David Swanson To Have Your Back

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Criminal Defense
  4.  » What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

A felony charge in California has extremely serious consequences, especially when the charge involves a type of homicide.

There are different forms of homicide under California law: murder and manslaughter. It is important to know the difference between the two crimes so you can prepare a proper criminal defense.


The main difference between murder and manslaughter is that murder requires an intent to end someone’s life. To be charged and convicted of murder, the prosecution must prove that you intended for the victim to die.

However, intent can form in an instant. You do not necessarily have to wake up that morning and decide to kill the victim.

Rather, an unexpected altercation, such as a bar fight, could result in a murder charge if there is evidence showing that at some point during the fight your intent changed from defending yourself to wanting to kill the other person.

Proving intent can be challenging, which is why sometimes prosecutors will charge manslaughter instead.


Unlike murder, manslaughter does not require an intent to kill the victim. There are 3 different types of manslaughter in California:

  • Voluntary
  • Involuntary
  • Vehicular

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone is provoked into doing something that causes the death of another person. A common example is if someone comes home to find their spouse cheating on them, flies into a rage and kills their spouse or the other person.

Involuntary manslaughter involves reckless or grossly negligent actions, while vehicular manslaughter involves these actions while driving a vehicle. A fatal drunk driving accident could result in a charge of involuntary manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter.

There are also different degrees of murder. The degree of murder charged depends on the specific circumstances.

Defending yourself against a homicide charge

When you are accused of taking someone’s life, you may feel scared, confused and overwhelmed about what comes next.

Whether the charge is murder or manslaughter, you need a strong criminal defense to the felony charge. Seeking professional assistance with your defense is crucial.