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What’s the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Pennsylvania?

A murder or manslaughter conviction can forever change your life. If you were recently arrested for murder or manslaughter in Pennsylvania, ask an attorney what the charges against you mean.

While it might appear as though murder and manslaughter are synonymous, they are not. Murder and manslaughter refer to different, specific types of criminal homicide. Murder is divided into three categories: first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree. Manslaughter is broken down into two categories: voluntary and involuntary. Within these categories, the penalties vary. However, generally, murder charges carry more severe consequences than manslaughter charges in Pennsylvania. That said, it is crucial to call an attorney after an arrest for any type of criminal homicide. An experienced defense lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and avoid a life-altering prison sentence.

Call our lawyers if you were recently arrested on murder or manslaughter charges in Pennsylvania. For a free case evaluation with the Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, call today at (215) 302-0171.

What Are the Different Charges for Murder and Manslaughter in Pennsylvania?

Criminal homicide, which is the intentional, reckless, or negligent act of causing another person’s death, is a broad subject that is divvied into various categories, depending on a criminal defendant’s alleged actions. These categories are murder and manslaughter, though category is broken down into more specific charges. Upon arrest for criminal homicide, you may be unaware of the exact charges against you and what they mean. That is why it is important to call an attorney immediately to get a clearer idea of the murder or manslaughter charges you’re facing in Pennsylvania. While there are various types of criminal homicide charges in Pennsylvania, first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree murder, as well as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, are the most common charges.

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder is one of the most serious charges Pennsylvania defendants might face. A prerequisite of a first-degree murder charge is intent. Deciding to cause someone’s death, whether through premeditation or not, can result in a first-degree murder charge. In order to arrest a person for such a serious crime, Pennsylvania law enforcement officials must often gather substantial evidence beforehand. So, if you have recently been arrested for first-degree murder in Pennsylvania, hiring a lawyer is crucial. Your Pennsylvania homicide and murder defense attorney can determine where law enforcement officials are in their case and begin building your defense.

Second-Degree Murder

A crime is a murder in the second degree when it is committed while a person is engaged in another felony. For example, if someone is participating in a robbery and their accomplice shoots and kills someone, they may be charged with second-degree murder even if they did not pull the trigger. Second-degree murder charges can be difficult to understand. If you were recently arrested, hire an attorney to explain the severity of the charges against you.

Third-Degree Murder

Any murder not covered by first-degree or second-degree murder charges is considered murder in the third degree. These cases don’t necessarily fit the criteria for the other type of criminal homicide, manslaughter, so they exist in their own vague category. A Bucks County criminal defense attorney can help explain why you might have been charged with third-degree murder and what that means for you moving forward.

Voluntary Manslaughter

According to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2503, voluntary manslaughter charges may arise from altercations and deaths wherein an alleged victim or other potential victim provoked “a sudden and intense passion” in the defendant.

Involuntary Manslaughter

When one’s reckless or grossly negligent acts unintentionally cause the death of another person, they might be charged with involuntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania. For example, if a person driving under the influence in Pennsylvania causes a car accident wherein a victim dies, the driver may be charged with involuntary manslaughter. If a perpetrator kills someone while committing a crime that is not a felony, the perpetrator may be charged with involuntary manslaughter. While still serious, it is the least severe criminal homicide charge in Pennsylvania.

What Are the Different Consequences for a Murder or Manslaughter Conviction in Pennsylvania?

A conviction for murder or manslaughter might result in vastly different consequences, depending on the specific charge. Generally, a conviction for first-degree murder will carry the most severe consequences. That said, a conviction for criminal homicide of any kind is incredibly serious. To avoid the potential consequences of a murder or manslaughter conviction in Pennsylvania, hire an experienced homicide and murder defense attorney.

First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder is perhaps the most serious offense in Pennsylvania. Because of this, it comes with the most serious penalties. After a first-degree murder conviction, Pennsylvania defendants may face a life sentence. It’s important for criminal defendants to understand that Pennsylvania still has the death penalty for first-degree murder cases. Having an experienced Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense attorney in your corner is crucial when your life is on the line.

Second-Degree Murder

After a conviction for second-degree murder, Pennsylvania defendants may face life in prison. Not only might you lose your freedom, but your future. An attorney can help you avoid a life sentence for second-degree murder in Pennsylvania.

Third-Degree Murder

For a third-degree murder conviction, Pennsylvania defendants may face up to 40 years in prison. Because third-degree murder acts as a catch-all for criminal homicide not covered by another category, the charges against you may be incorrect. Be sure to hire an attorney so you don’t spend 40 years in prison for a crime you did not commit.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter convictions result in serious penalties for Pennsylvania defendants. A conviction of this charge may lead to a prison sentence of 20 years.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter has the least severe consequences of most criminal homicide charges. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania, you may face up to five years in prison. If a victim is under 12 and in the care of the perpetrator, involuntary manslaughter is a second-degree felony and may result prison sentence of five to ten years. To avoid such a prison sentence, hire an attorney after being arrested for involuntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania.

How to Challenge Charges for Murder and Manslaughter in Pennsylvania

The distinctions between murder and manslaughter charges are extremely important because they determine how our Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers can challenge the case against you. Each offense has unique criminal elements that we can challenge as part of your defense, depending on your situation. Contact our Philadelphia defense attorneys for accomplice charges to develop defense tactics in your case.

If you are charged with a form of murder, we can challenge your case based on intent. As mentioned earlier, crucial elements of murder are the intent to kill and premeditation. A common challenge to murder charges is to show that you did not have the time or the right state of mind to form the requisite intent to kill. Similarly, if the killing was accidental, we can argue that lesser charges are more appropriate.

If you are charged with manslaughter, we can attack your case on two fronts. First, if you are charged with murder, we can work to downgrade your charges to manslaughter by using the imperfect self-defense rule. If you believed your actions were justified, but the court disagrees, we can argue that your belief in your justification was held in good faith but unreasonable. Second, we can argue that your actions were based on a reasonable response to intense provocation from the victim. Alternatively, if you believe your actions were truly justified, we can claim self-defense and move to have your charges dropped or dismissed.

The best way to mount your defense depends on the details of your case. You can talk to our Philadelphia vehicular homicide lawyers about which defense works best with your situation.

Call Our Pennsylvania Defense Lawyers Today

If you were recently arrested for murder or manslaughter in Pennsylvania, call our attorneys. For a free case evaluation with the Montgomery criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, call today at (215) 302-0171.