What’s the Difference between Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter?

Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

Image with murder word and associated terms.Murder, manslaughter, and homicide are terms used to describe situations in which one person’s actions result in another’s death. Homicide is a blanket term that refers to the killing of a human being by another human being. Manslaughter and murder are both types of homicide. The two crimes are distinguishable based on whether the person alleged to have committed the crime acted with “malice aforethought.” In other words, did they plan ahead of time to kill another person? If so, the offense is murder. If not, it is manslaughter.

New Mexico Homicide Offenses Explained

Homicide is a broad term that is used to describe a situation in which one person’s actions result in another’s death. Not surprisingly, homicide offenses are some of the most serious crimes; however, not every homicide is a crime. In New Mexico, there are several types of homicide offenses, including:

  • Homicide by vehicle
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Murder in the first degree
  • Murder in the second degree

As mentioned above, not all homicides are against the law. For example, a person who accidentally kills another person, while engaging in legal activity and taking the appropriate precautions, does not commit a homicide. Similarly, a homicide may be excusable if it is committed while someone is defending themselves.

Often, prosecutors will charge several homicide offenses and let the judge or jury determine which crimes, if any, the defendant committed. Thus, it is critically important for anyone facing New Mexico homicide charges to reach out to a dedicated criminal defense law firm as soon as possible. At the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, our criminal trial attorneys are skilled at both negotiation and litigation, making us an invaluable resource to those facing serious homicide charges.

Manslaughter Crimes in New Mexico

New Mexico law defines the crime of manslaughter as the “unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” Because manslaughter does not involve malice, it is considered less serious than murder. New Mexico manslaughter cases are classified as either involuntary or voluntary.

Involuntary manslaughter

The crime of involuntary manslaughter involves a killing that occurs in the commission of some unlawful act other than a felony crime. Involuntary manslaughter also involves a killing that occurs while the defendant is engaging in a lawful but dangerous act without exercising “due caution and circumspection.” Involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to eighteen months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. An example of involuntary manslaughter may be a fatal traffic accident caused by a driver who was texting while driving.

Voluntary manslaughter

The crime of voluntary manslaughter involves a killing that occurs during a “sudden quarrel” or in the heat of passion. Voluntary manslaughter resulting in the death of a human being is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The classic example of voluntary manslaughter involves a spouse who comes home to find their partner in the arms of another person and kills either in the heat of passion.

At the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we represent clients facing voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges. Our team of defense attorneys has extensive experience negotiating and litigating these complex cases and proudly put in the time and effort to provide each of our clients a top-notch defense, regardless of the charges they face.

What Constitutes Murder in New Mexico?

New Mexico criminal law defines murder as the killing of one human being by another without lawful justification or excuse. Under state law, there are two types – or degrees – of murder.

First-Degree Murder

A first-degree murder occurs when someone unlawfully kills another person in one of the following three manners:

  1. A willful, deliberate or premeditated act;
  2. In the commission of a felony;
  3. While engaging in an act that is “greatly dangerous to the lives of others, indicating a depraved mind regardless of human life.”

Upon a conviction of first-degree murder, a defendant is guilty of a capital offense. Before 2009, this could result in the imposition of the death penalty. However, in 2009, New Mexico became the 15th state to abolish the death penalty. Thus, a defendant convicted of a capital offense now faces either life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Second-Degree Murder

A charge of second-degree murder is somewhat of a catch-all for intentional killings that do not rise to the level of first-degree murder, but do not fit within the definition of voluntary manslaughter. Under New Mexico law, second-degree murder involves a defendant who kills another while engaging in conduct that he knows creates “a strong probability of death or great bodily harm” to another person.

A defendant convicted of murder in the second degree resulting in the death of a human being is guilty of a second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $12,500.

Those who have been charged with murder in New Mexico should not face these serious charges alone. At the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we represent clients facing all types of homicide offenses, including first-degree murder and second-degree murder charges. Our team of aggressive criminal attorneys proudly stand up for our clients’ rights at every stage of the process – from the moment we begin working on a case up through appeal, if necessary.

Contact an Experienced Albuquerque Criminal Defense Law Firm for Immediate Assistance

Handcuffed prisoner in jail.

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a New Mexico homicide crime, contact the dedicated defense attorneys at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. Our team of passionate attorneys vigorously defend the rights of clients charged with all types of serious felony offenses, including manslaughter and murder cases. We offer all prospective clients a free case evaluation in which we can discuss your situation and provide insight as to how we may be able to help. With over 20 years of experience proudly defending the rights of clients accused of serious crimes, New Mexico Criminal Law Offices is a natural choice to represent you or your loved ones.