Georgia Law: What Differentiates Manslaughter from Murder
There are two main homicide charges in Georgia: murder and manslaughter. Murder is the more serious charge, defined as the intentional killing of another person. Manslaughter, on the other hand, is defined as the unintentional killing of another person. There are also a few other types of homicide charges, but these are the two most common.
Manslaughter is the killing of another person without malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is a legal term that means the intention to kill without justification or excuse. Georgia law recognizes two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter is often referred to as a crime of passion. It occurs when you act in the heat of the moment in response to provocation that would cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed. Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence.
Murder (Direct Intent to Kill)
Murder is the most severe form of criminal homicide. If you are convicted, you will be sentenced to life in prison. The only question at sentencing will be whether you will be eligible for parole, will serve your entire life, or whether the state will request the death penalty. This means that the prosecutor will need to show that you killed someone else on purpose and did so with planning and forethought.
Malice can be either expressed or implied. If a prosecutor doesn’t have a recording of someone saying, I’m going to kill him; they can still try to prove that the person intended to kill the other person. This can be done by looking at the person’s actions and seeing if there was a disregard for human life. Examples of murder with the direct intent to kill include driving into a crowd and shooting into a house.
Manslaughter (Unintentional Killing) – Voluntary vs. Involuntary
Voluntary manslaughter is a type of homicide that occurs when a person kills another person in the heat of the moment in response to a sudden and violent provocation. For the killing to be considered voluntary manslaughter, the provocation must be the kind that would cause a reasonable person to take drastic action. The killing must occur immediately after the provocation. This type of manslaughter is usually charged as a felony, and the person convicted may face up to 20 years in prison.
Involuntary manslaughter is when someone dies because of another person’s negligent or illegal actions but without any intent to harm them. This type of manslaughter is usually charged as a misdemeanor, and the person convicted can face up to one year in prison.
Convincing the Jury
In a criminal court, the prosecutor is responsible for proving that the defendant is guilty of manslaughter or murder. However, in some murder cases, the defense may argue that the crime was only manslaughter.
By suggesting the jury consider this lesser offense, the defense attorney can question whether the defendant had the required mindset for murder or if the offense is better classified as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. This can be significant because the sentencing for these crimes can differ greatly, with life in prison as the maximum sentence for murder and one year or less in jail for manslaughter.
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter because you stood your ground or acted in self-defense, your defense attorney can file an immunity motion in Georgia, asking the judge to dismiss your case before it goes to trial.
Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you are accused of murder or manslaughter. A strong defense is critical and can save your life. At Hanks, Ballard and Barth, our experienced criminal defense attorneys in Monroe, Georgia, can help you build a successful defense against murder or manslaughter charges. Call us at (770) 267-8988 today.