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What Differentiates Homicide From Manslaughter

Regardless of the circumstances, one person killing another is considered a homicide. They are commonly categorized as murders, manslaughters, or “justifiable” homicides. It’s important to note that they can be the result of an accident or negligence and are not always considered crimes.

If you kill in an act of self-defense, for example, the homicide would not be considered a crime. On the other hand, an accidental death might be considered involuntary manslaughter. Whatever the case, you’re going to need the best criminal defense lawyer in Boston to prove your guiltlessness and help you differentiate between homicide and manslaughter.

What Are the Defining Factors of a Homicide Case?

When prosecuting a defendant for being responsible for another person’s death, the number one legal factor considered is the assailant’s state of mind during the killing. Legal bodies need to consider this to determine whether a killing was planned with malicious intent or committed accidentally and unintentionally.

Different circumstances can lead to homicide for different reasons, which is why various homicide charges and penalties exist.

What Are the Various Homicide Charges Under Massachusetts Law?

Homicide offenses in Massachusetts are determined by the assailant’s intentions and mental state during the time of the killing. Thus, homicide charges in Massachusetts include:

  1. First-degree murder (including felony murders)
  2. Second-degree murder
  3. Voluntary manslaughter
  4. Involuntary manslaughter
  5. Motor vehicle homicide

What is Considered First-Degree Murder?

First-degree murder occurs when a killing is committed deliberately, intentionally, and premeditatively. Extremely cruel or severe killings fall under the “felony murder rule”, which allows you to be charged with first-degree murder if the killing was committed in the middle of a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death. The maximum penalty for first-degree murder in this state is life without parole.

What is Considered Second-Degree Murder?

If killing is intentional but not premeditated, this is considered second-degree murder. In Massachusetts, the maximum penalty for this type of killing is life in prison with the possibility of parole. If convicted, you can be eligible for parole between 15 to 25 years.

What is Considered Voluntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter constitutes a killing that was committed intentionally but involved a form of provocation, justification, or mitigating factor. These factors might include:

  • Occurring due to reasonable provocation
  • Occurring after sudden physical combat
  • Involving excessive force used in self-defense of oneself or another

What is Considered Involuntary Manslaughter?

You can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if the killing was unintentional and caused when acting recklessly or committing battery against the victim. To get off on an involuntary manslaughter charge, attorneys must prove that while the assailant was intentionally violent, that they did not intend to cause the death of the victim.

What is Considered Motor Vehicle Homicide?

When a motor vehicle is operated recklessly or dangerously and causes the death of another, this is considered a motor vehicle homicide. Defendants can face 2.5 to 15 years if charged with a felony and 30 days to 2.5 years of charged with a misdemeanor. If the offender has been previously charged with a DUI, their license becomes suspended for life.


Because homicides are considered the most severe of violent crimes, it carries major legal and extra-legal consequences. In most cases, these consequences are devastating and can ruin your career and family life.

If you find yourself facing homicide charges in the state of Massachusetts, don’t hesitate to contact us, one of Boston’s best criminal law firms. We offer free consultations!