What’s The Difference Between Manslaughter And Negligent Homicide?


When one person kills someone else, a specific term usually comes to mind: murder. This blanket term, however, does not describe every different instance of legal homicide.

The experienced Houston criminal attorneys at Vinas & Graham understand that in each situation involving homicide, there are a variety of factors to consider. While first-degree and second-degree murder are the harshest homicide charges, they can only be applied in instances where the killing occurred due to willful intent.

In homicide events involving negligent or reckless behavior, the terms negligent homicide or manslaughter are more likely to be used—but what is the difference between the two?

Understanding how these charges are defined is imperative to figuring out the variances between the two.

What Is Manslaughter?

Next to murder, the term ‘manslaughter’ is one of the most widely-used ways to describe one person killing another. In the Texas Statutes Sec. 19.04. (a), manslaughter is defined as an action where:

A person commits an offense if he recklessly causes the death of an individual.

This general term is separated into two subsections: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter

In the event of voluntary manslaughter, a man or woman knowingly takes the life of another person. Despite this awareness, however, the crime doesn’t qualify for murder since it takes place in the ‘heat of the moment.’

If Houston attorneys like Vinas & Graham are attempting to get a charge lessened from murder to manslaughter, certain events should have occurred. They must prove in their legal arguments and witness questioning that the defendant was strongly baited and triggered to the point of killing.

In circumstances where a person is emotionally goaded to the point of homicide, it’s arguable their judgment was severely impaired.

Involuntary Manslaughter

The term reckless behavior strongly applies to involuntary manslaughter. In these types of instances, the perpetrator knowingly engages in dangerous activities that result in the death of another person.

In comparison to voluntary manslaughter, however, there is no intention behind the murder. Despite the defendant’s reckless behavior, they did not set out to kill another person. There are many different examples of this type of crime, including:

  • Vehicular Homicide
  • Reckless, or Illegal, Firearm Usage
  • Physical Altercations that Result in Accidental Death
  • Drug Activity, i.e., Drug Sales and Illegal Prescriptions

What Is Negligent Homicide?

While court systems will sometimes view negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter as one-in-the-same, in other instances it is considered a separate type of charge.

Generally speaking, negligent homicide occurs when a person knowingly commits an action without being fully aware of its risks. In circumstances of negligent homicide, a jury must consider the crime and determine whether most reasonable people would have been aware that the action could result in death.

Differences Between Manslaughter And Negligent Homicide

When a person is accused of homicide, it is the job of criminal attorneys like Vinas & Graham to determine how to plead their case. This is where the fundamental difference between manslaughter and negligent homicide comes into play.

The variation between the two lies heavily on the intention behind the crime. Even if a person murdered someone else under emotional-distress, there is a certain level of awareness in their actions. Their behavior would be considered reckless and subjects them to a manslaughter charge.

While negligent homicide could still be labeled reckless, it is primarily a case of the guilty party being unaware of the possible results of their actions. A doctor who forgets to wash his hands between patients, for example, may not be aware or thinking about the cross-contamination that could result in death.

Negligent homicide revolves around simple actions that can unknowingly result in another person’s death.

Which Homicide Charge Is More Severe?

A homicide should be taken seriously no matter what the cause or circumstances. Both manslaughter and negligent homicide charges, however, are far less severe than a first or second-degree murder charge.

Between the two, the consequences of a manslaughter charge are far stricter.

If you are charged with manslaughter, you could be facing expensive fines and jail time. The incarceration period can be anywhere from two years to life in prison or the death penalty. In situations of negligent homicide, the charged persons will be looking at a fine of up to $10,000 and six months to two years in jail.

Have You Been Charged With Manslaughter Or Negligent Homicide In Houston?

If you are involved in a Houston homicide, don’t try to face the charges on your own. By hiring experienced criminal attorneys like Vinas & Graham, you will have the best chances for a better outcome or lesser indictment.

Give us a call today at (281) 688-1806 to schedule a free consultation. Or, simply fill out our contact form for more information. Follow us on Facebook for news and information.