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What is Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

by J.D. Garrett on July 15, 2012

When someone is charged with murder or manslaughter they are facing the most serious of charges in criminal cases. In Virginia, murder may be charged as a capital offense under certain circumstances, and may result in the death penalty. Murder charges that are not capital offenses are still punishable by life in prison. Manslaughter is punishable by up to twenty years in prison.

The difference between murder and manslaughter is the “intent” of the defendant. Murder is the killing of another person with some level of pre-planning, premeditation, or “malice aforethought”. Manslaughter is charged in those circumstances when the killing of another was not planned, however the act which resulted in the death is intentional. Many manslaughter cases may be referred to as “heat of the moment” or “passion” killings.

The burden of proof in any criminal case is always on the prosecutor. In homicide cases, it is important to have a murder defense attorney who knows how to fully examine the evidence and prepare a proper defense. As stated above, murder cases revolve around “intent”. Therefore, a defense lawyer must be able to cross-examine prosecution witnesses and present the defendant’s case in a way to show there was no premeditated intent. In manslaughter cases, it is important to explore the cause of death to determine if the death was accidental.

It is vitally important for someone who has been charged with a homicide offense, or any other criminal offense, to demand a criminal attorney be present before speaking with any police or homicide detective. Many prosecution cases are built upon what a defendant says during an interview as well as what they omit or don’t say.

If someone you know has been charged with murder or manslaughter in Virginia Beach, contact our office for a free consultation. (757) 422-4646. Our Virginia Beach criminal defense lawyers are available 24/7/365 and will meet you friend or family member at the jail if necessary.

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