The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Phoenix, Arizona

criminal defense attorney - looking up at the statues atop the courthouse entrance

The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Phoenix, Arizona

Todd Coolidge, the lead criminal defense attorney at Coolidge Law Firm, has represented many homicide cases in Arizona. His experience in the courtroom and his vast knowledge of the subtleties of law mean his clients trust him to handle their case. In our previous blog post, we took a look at how the law defines homicide and murder. But there is one more connected term that we haven’t yet defined, and that’s manslaughter.

What is the Legal Definition of Manslaughter?

In its essence, manslaughter is considered a punishable homicide, but not a murder. And it’s typically treated as a much less severe crime than murder. While the definition may vary slightly according to each legal jurisdiction, manslaughter is murder without deliberation, premeditation, and malice aforethought. Simply defined, malice aforethought is the intent to kill a person or cause serious bodily harm, or acting with an extreme, reckless disregard for human life that leads to a person’s death.

Two Kinds of Manslaughter

Manslaughter is broken down into two categories:

  • Voluntary Manslaughter. For manslaughter to be considered voluntary, it must occur when a person kills another person in the heat of the moment. Meaning, the person who committed the killing did so because they became emotionally or mentally disturbed in the moment of action.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter. Justia defines involuntary manslaughter as, An unintentional killing that results either from criminal negligence or the commission of a low-level criminal act such as a misdemeanor.The most common cases of involuntary manslaughter are related to fatal car accidentsdriving while under the influence, or recklessly running a red light and hitting and killing someone.

The Blurry Line Between Murder and Manslaughter

Sometimes the line between murder and manslaughter isn’t that clear. So let’s take a look at a few examples and see if we can shed some light on the differences.

An example of Voluntary Manslaughter: Jane & John, a married couple, are having an argument over John’s infidelity. The argument turns physical and Jane pushes John down the stairs, resulting in John’s death. Jane had no intention of harming John before the argument began, but when their fighting escalated, her reckless action in the heat of the moment led to his death.

An example of Involuntary Manslaughter: Bill is a property manager for an apartment complex and he fails to properly install smoke detectors before a deadly fire. The deaths were entirely unintentional and not directly his doing, yet his gross negligence led to a loss of life.

If you still feel confusion about these terms, Coolidge Law Firm is here to help. In his career as a criminal defense attorney, Todd Coolidge has focused much of his time on vehicular homicide, manslaughter, and other murder charges. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in Arizona, contact Mr. Coolidge. He’s proven very successful in his practice concerning violations of a person’s constitutional rights. If the possibility of one exists, he will find it, raise the issue, and make a motion before trial. This type of practice has even resulted in the dismissal of charges or the suppression of evidence, so that it may not be used in court. Call us today at (480) 264-5111, to see what we can do for you!


Photo by Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash (7/21/2018)