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What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2022 | Criminal Defense, Murder

Court cases involving the death of a human being are complicated. The accusations defendants face are sometimes hard to understand.

In Pennsylvania, homicide refers to any manslaughter or murder case. The state has unique classifications of these laws that differ from other states.


There are two kinds of manslaughter indictments in Pennsylvania:

Involuntary manslaughter

When the actor’s reckless behavior or criminal misconduct causes someone’s death, the state will pursue involuntary manslaughter. In these instances, the person did not intend to kill anyone.

Voluntary manslaughter

Unlike involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter accuses the defendant of intending to kill someone and following through on that desire. These are often crimes of passion and are not premeditated.


There are three types of murder charges in Pennsylvania:

First-degree murder

This is the most severe charge brought on by the state. It accuses the defendant of plotting to kill their victim for malicious reasons. The people who commit these crimes do so with no care for human life. Their actions were not accidental or spontaneous.

Second-degree murder

Second-degree murder is sometimes known as “felony murder.” In these cases, the act of a felony crime results in casualties. For example, the state might charge a person with second-degree murder if they committed a bank robbery and someone died in the incident.

Third-degree murder

Any murder offense that does not fit into first or second-degree murder would fall under this category. Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the country that has this third classification.

Legal actions and sentencing vary depending on the circumstances and evidence in each situation.