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Murder vs. Manslaughter: A Breakdown of Two North Carolina Crimes

Most people know that the killing of a person by another person is considered homicide. However, depending on the nature of the offense, you might not know that homicide can be classified as murder or manslaughter, each of which has a very different outcome for the defendant. 

Here, we discuss the key differences between murder and manslaughter in North Carolina, as well as the potential penalties for each charge. 

The Key Differences between Murder and Manslaughter

The key difference between murder and manslaughter is the defendant’s intent – did the defendant intend to kill the person when they committed the act? Generally speaking, murder is the killing of another human being with intent, whereas manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another. There are various types of murder and manslaughter in North Carolina, which we will discuss below. 

Types of Murder

A defendant who is charged with intentionally killing another person would likely be charged with either: 

  • First-Degree Murder: This is a premeditated and deliberate killing. If a person planned to kill another person and took action on those plans, they will likely be charged with first-degree murder. 
    • Felony Murder: Additionally, if a person is killed accidentally during the commission of a felony (for example, a robbery, rape, or kidnapping), the defendant would be charged with first-degree murder. Likewise, an accomplice to a felony murder would also be charged with first-degree murder. 
  • Second-Degree Murder: This is not a pre-meditated killing. Second-degree murder is when a person behaves in such a way that shows a reckless disregard for human life and thus results in the death of another person. For example, a person who intended to cause serious bodily harm, but ended up killing the other person, would likely be charged with second-degree murder. 

Types of Manslaughter

There are also a few types of manslaughter charges in North Carolina: 

  • Voluntary Manslaughter: the killing of another person with intent, but under circumstances where a reasonable person would become emotionally or mentally disturbed. The two common examples of voluntary manslaughter are “heat of passion” or “imperfect self-defense.”
  • Involuntary Manslaughter: the unintentional killing of a person without intent but as a result of criminally negligent or reckless conduct. Another type of involuntary manslaughter is a killing that happens during the commission of a non-felony crime. 
  • Vehicular Manslaughter: the killing of another person with no intent, but which occurs because of a driver’s negligence or recklessness. 

Penalties for Murder and Manslaughter

The punishments for manslaughter and murder will vary depending on the nature of the crime, in particular, whether there were any aggravating or mitigating factors. In general, possible sentences for murder and manslaughter in North Carolina include:

  • First-Degree Murder or Felony Murder: Class A felony – life in prison with no parole or death penalty
  • Second-Degree Murder: Class B1 felony – prison sentence of 192 months to life in prison; or Class B2 felony – prison sentence of 125 months in prison 
  • Voluntary Manslaughter: Class D felony – prison sentence of 51 months 
  • Involuntary Manslaughter or Vehicular Manslaughter: Class F felony – prison sentence of 13 months

Contact Cotten Law to Discuss Your Defense.

Cotten Law has represented clients in a range of cases, from simple misdemeanors to serious murder or manslaughter charges. Jeremy has represented tens of thousands of clients and has hundreds of stellar reviews online. Our offices serve clients in central North Carolina including Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. Give us a call or click over to our main page to chat live with an assistant 24 hours a day.

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