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Facing Criminal Charges in Virginia? Call Us at (540) 343-9349

What’s the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

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If you’ve been charged with murder or manslaughter, you’re facing a serious situation that could put you in prison for many years. These offenses have vastly different consequences that could affect every aspect of your life. Understanding the differences between murder vs. manslaughter is vitally important, as getting your charge reduced can make a huge difference in your case.

At Roanoke Criminal Attorneys, our attorneys are here to help you. We’ve handled many murder and manslaughter cases and will fight for you to achieve the best outcome for your case. To schedule an initial consultation, contact us today at (540) 343-9349.

Murder Charges

Virginia law creates several classes of murder, including:

  • Capital Murder

    Under Virginia law, this offense is defined as the killing of another person in a way that is deliberate, premeditated, and willful. It includes situations such as murder for hire, killing a woman who is pregnant, killing a child under the age of 14, a killing during a robbery, murder of a police officer or firefighter while they are doing their job, killing someone while committing or attempting terrorism, killing a witness to keep them from testifying, and more.

  • First-Degree Murder

    This crime is deliberate murder that does not fit the description of capital murder. It includes killing someone by poisoning or starving them, lying in wait, murder during a felony (such as a rape, arson, sodomy, abduction, or robbery), or a murder that is premeditated (premeditation does not have to happen far in advance; it can happen just seconds before the act).

  • Second-Degree Murder

    This offense includes any murder that does not fit the above definitions. It requires malice, but not premeditation.

Manslaughter Charges

There are two types of manslaughter charges in Virginia:

  • Voluntary Manslaughter

    This offense is the intentional killing of another person, without malice, and while in the heat of the moment. An example of voluntary manslaughter is if you walked in on your spouse having an affair and killed them.

  • Involuntary Manslaughter

    Defined by case law, this is the accidental killing of someone while doing something that is against the law (but not a felony), or while doing something legal in a way that is improper. Involuntary manslaughter could include hitting and killing someone with your car while you were texting as you were driving.

Murder vs. Manslaughter Charges

Both murder and manslaughter are crimes that involve killing someone, but they have an important difference. In Virginia, a murder charge requires malice, can be expressed or implied. Manslaughter charges do not include an element of malice. This is the primary distinction between the two offenses.

Differences in Penalties

There are very different sentences between murder and manslaughter in Virginia. A capital murder could result in the death penalty. A first-degree murder conviction could result in life in prison, and second-degree murder is punishable by up to 40 years behind bars. The penalties for manslaughter are much less harsh. Voluntary manslaughter can result in prison time of one to 10 years as well as a fine. Involuntary manslaughter can result in prison time of up to 20 years.

Contact a Roanoke Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you’re facing a murder charge in Virginia, you need an attorney who can not only provide you with the very best defense, but one who can work to get your charge reduced to the least severe crime with the shortest penalty possible. The skilled attorneys at Roanoke Criminal Attorneys have experience working on all types of murder and manslaughter charges.

Call our office today at (540) 343-9349, or reach out online to get the help you need.