What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in South Carolina?

man in handcuffs

When you’re facing criminal charges, you may find it challenging to navigate the nuances and complexities of the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, the terminology of certain criminal offenses isn’t always crystal clear, making it difficult to understand the distinct legal connotations between different charges. Two terms that frequently get mixed up are murder and manslaughter. While these two crimes fall under the category of homicide, they carry distinct legal implications. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Please continue reading to learn how murder and manslaughter differ in South Carolina and how a determined Chesterfield County Violent Crime Lawyer can help ensure your rights are protected during these challenging times. 

How Do Murder and Manslaughter Differ in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, homicide is defined as the killing of another person without legal justification. There are different types of homicide, including murder and manslaughter. While manslaughter involves the unlawful killing of another person, it’s distinct from murder. Understanding the differences between these charges is crucial, as they have differing penalties. However, the main distinction between these crimes lies in the intent behind the act.

Manslaughter is a lesser offense than murder, but it’s still a serious crime that carries significant penalties. Manslaughter, unlike murder, this crime doesn’t involve malice aforethought. It occurs when someone unintentionally kills another person, meaning it wasn’t premeditated or otherwise planned ahead of time. Manslaughter falls into two categories:

  • Voluntary manslaughter also referred to as a “heat of passion” crime, occurs when the victim provoked the killer in some way. For instance, if they were physically assaulting them, the killer must have acted in the heat of the moment rather than with a preformed intent.
  • Involuntary manslaughter involves a death that is caused by reckless or negligent conduct. Essentially, this occurs when the individual engages in reckless behavior that disregards others’ safety. For instance, if they were driving recklessly and caused a fatal accident.

Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are both felonies in South Carolina. A conviction of voluntary manslaughter can result in up to 30 years of imprisonment. Involuntary manslaughter can result in up to 5 years. Murder, on the other hand, is the crime of unlawfully killing another person with malice aforethought or premeditation. It’s imperative to note that malice aforethought is the conscious intent to kill or cause significant bodily injury to another person with an extreme disregard for human life. It’s the intentional killing of another person. Murder is the most severe of crimes. Therefore, it carries a minimum prison term of 30 years but could result in a sentence of up to life or death.

Given the stakes, if you’re facing murder or manslaughter, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced lawyer from the Cockrell Law Firm, P.C., who can help challenge any allegations made against you to avoid the potential consequences. Allow our firm to represent your interest today to maximize your chances of achieving the best possible outcome for your case.