Many times people make the mistake of thinking murder and manslaughter are the same crimes, but there are major differences between the two. It’s useful to understand the differences between manslaughter and murder because they weigh heavily on the potential sentences a defendant can face.

We’re going to take a closer look at what these differences are and the punishments they bring along with them.

Manslaughter vs. Murder in North Carolina

The main distinction between manslaughter and murder is the intent to harm someone. With murder, someone had an intent to kill the victim versus manslaughter where the defendant unintentionally killed the victim. Since there was no intent to harm someone, the charge is less serious than first or second-degree murder. But, it can still carry a hefty penalty.

Beyond that major difference, there are also different types of manslaughter and murder charges in North Carolina. 

Types of Manslaughter Charges

In North Carolina, there are three basic types of manslaughter charges:

Voluntary Manslaughter

This is sometimes referred to as “passion killing” when someone is killed in the heat of the moment. The circumstances that lead up to the crime are those that would cause someone who is otherwise reasonable to become so emotionally or mentally disturbed that they kill another person.

Involuntary Manslaughter

This is the unintentional killing of another person that was caused directly by someone’s actions. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder because an accidental killing as a result of extreme recklessness can be considered second-degree murder.

Vehicular Manslaughter

When someone’s negligent driving leads to another person’s death, this is referred to as vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter charges can result from texting, driving recklessly, speeding, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


Types of Murder Charges

When someone is charged with murder they will likely face either first-degree or second-degree murder charges.

First-degree Murder

This is when a person planned to kill another person and followed through on it. This is premeditated and deliberate. If someone kills someone else during a felony crime, like a robbery or rape, they would be charged with first-degree murder. Anyone who is an accomplice to a felony murder would also face first-degree murder charges.

Second-degree Murder

Second-degree murder is not pre-meditated. When someone is so reckless that it results in the death of another person, this is considered second-degree murder. If someone intended to just hurt someone but it ended in their death, they would likely face second-degree murder charges.

Punishments for Manslaughter

The punishments for manslaughter differ depending on the charges. These are the typical sentences someone can face when charged.

Voluntary Manslaughter

This is considered a Class D felony and carries a prison sentence of up to 51 months

Involuntary or Vehicular Manslaughter

These are Class F felonies that carry a prison sentence of up to 13 months.

Punishments for Murder

Since a murder charge is more serious than a manslaughter charge, the punishments are more severe.

First-degree or Felony Murder

This is the most serious crime. As a Class A felony, it carries a sentence of life in prison without parole or the death penalty

Second-degree Murder

This can be a Class B1 or B2 felony. Class B1 felonies have a prison sentence of 192 months to life in prison while class B2 has a sentence of 125 months in prison.

Consult with a Criminal Lawyer About the Differences Between Manslaughter and Murder

If you find yourself in need of a criminal law attorney, contact Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas. For more than 60 years, we have been a trusted name for people in need of a defense attorney in Raleigh and surrounding areas. To learn more, reach out to us today at 919-615-2473 for our Raleigh office or at 919-365-6000 to reach our Wendell office. You can also fill out the form below to get started.

Information presented on this website should not be construed as formal legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship.  Additionally, any email sent to Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, L.L.P. or any of its lawyers at the email addresses set forth in this website will not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Jeff is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh. He has effectively represented the citizens of Wake County and all over North Carolina since 1989.

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