What Is the Difference Between Homicide and Manslaughter Under NC Law?
Facing a homicide or manslaughter charge can be overwhelming. The first step in the criminal justice process is to understand the charges that have been brought against you. Most people are familiar with the basic idea of homicide, but the legal definition of the offense can actually be quite complex. Understanding the details is critical so that you can decide how to proceed in your case.
At Randall & Stump, PLLC, our Charlotte homicide lawyers work with our clients to make sure they understand their charges and their options. If you are facing accusations of criminal acts, we will aggressively defend your rights and freedom, and fight for you to obtain a fair outcome. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.
What is Considered Homicide Under North Carolina Law?
Under North Carolina law, homicide is defined as the intentional killing of another human being. If you killed someone intentionally, you would be charged with one of the following crimes:
For this charge, North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) §14-17 (a) identifies factors such as acting willfully, deliberately, and lying in wait. If you planned to kill someone and took steps to accomplish the act, you would be charged with first-degree murder.
This offense is not pre-meditated. Instead, it involves malice “based on an inherently dangerous act or omission, done in such a reckless and wanton manner as to manifest a mind utterly without regard for human life and social duty and deliberately bent on mischief.” In other words, your actions are intentional, but you lacked the specific intent to kill the other person even though you acted with total disregard to their life. Alternatively, you may have spontaneously had the intention to kill, but it was not premeditated.
What is Manslaughter Under North Carolina Law?
It is important to know that manslaughter has its own definition under North Carolina Law. You might be tempted to think that manslaughter is when you kill someone unintentionally, but the details of such charges are somewhat complicated. There are two main types of manslaughter in NC:
These offenses are often referred to as crimes of passion, in which someone kills another person usually when provoked. For example, a wife who kills her husband when she catches him in the act of adultery would be considered voluntary manslaughter. She intended to kill him, but only because she was under extreme provocation and did not have time to calm down. Murders committed out of sudden rage or extreme emotional distress often result in voluntary manslaughter charges. That said, there can be some gray area between what constitutes first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Aggressive prosecutors may charge you with first-degree murder when a voluntary manslaughter charge may be more appropriate.
This crime involves an unintentional killing, usually as the result of reckless or negligent behavior. For example, if you own a rental property and someone dies in a fire because you did not install fire alarms, you could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
North Carolina also has a separate crime for involuntary manslaughter involving a motor vehicle. For example, you could be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you kill someone while texting and driving.
Potential Consequences of Conviction
Both murder and manslaughter are very serious crimes and could result in harsh consequences. If convicted of any of these crimes, you face serious time in prison. Statutory penalties include:
- First-degree murder (class A felony) – Life in prison without parole, death penalty possible
- Second-degree murder (class B1 or B2 felony) – 94 months to life in prison without the possibility of parole
- Voluntary manslaughter (class D felony) – 38 to 160 months in prison
- Involuntary manslaughter (class F felony) – 10 to 41 months in prison
- Vehicular manslaughter (class A1 misdemeanor; or class F, E, D, or B2 felony) – one day to 393 months of incarceration
Contact Randall & Stump, PLLC if You’re Facing Murder Charges
Whether accusations of involuntary manslaughter or first-degree murder are being leveled against you, you can’t afford to leave your future in the hands of the prosecution. The homicide defense attorneys at Randall & Stump, PLLC have the experience, skills, and knowledge necessary to provide a strong defense on your behalf. If you’ve been charged with murder or manslaughter in the Charlotte area, we can help.