Manslaughter – the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought

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n. (15c)

1. The unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. — aka (in some jurisdictions) culpable homicide. — manslaughter, vb. [1]

1. The unlawful killing of another, without malice, and either voluntary, as when the act is committed with a real design and purpose to kill, but through the violence of sudden passion, occasioned by some great provocation, which in tenderness for the frailty of human nature, the law considers sufficient to palliate the offense, or involuntary, when the death of another is caused by some unlawful act, not accompanied with any intention to take life. 26 Am J1st Homi § 17.

A crime in various degrees under the statutes, there being inconsistency between jurisdictions as to particulars.  First degree-involuntary manslaughter; a killing by negligence. 26 Am J1st Homi § 219.

Second degree: — the killing of one human being by another when committed without a design to effect death. People v Rochester Railway & Light Co. 195 NY 102, 88 NE 22.

Third degree: — the killing of a human being in the heat of passion, without a design to effect death. Clemens v State, 176 Wis 289, 185 NW 209, 21 ALR 1490.

Fourth degree: —  an involuntary killing of a human being in the heat of passion. Clemens v State, 176 Wis 289, 185 NW 209, 21 ALR 1490.

A killing by inadvertence amounting to culpable negligence. 26 Am J1st Homi § 219. [2]

     Excerpt from G.W. Keeton’s The Elementary Principles of Jurisprudence (2d ed. 1949):

     “[M]anslaughter is very difficult to define precisely, because it includes so many different types of culpability. The main line of division is between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, the first occurring where there is an intention to do some illegal harm to a person, the second where there is no such intention.   Manslaughter . . . may not be the result of intent at all.  It may be the consequence of negligence.  This, indeed, is one of the principal causes of involuntary manslaughter, and it has long been clear that a different degree of negligence, sometimes termed ‘gross,’ ‘criminal,’ or ‘complete,’ is a necessary prerequisite of criminal liability, but these epithets have not added much from the standpoint of legal clarity. [4]

Degrees of Manslaughter:

voluntary manslaughter – homicide committed with provocation or in the heat of passion. — aka first degree manslaughter; intentional manslaughter; manslaughter in the first degree; unintentional murder.

  • heat of passion – rage, terror, or furious anger suddenly aroused by another person’s words or actions, thereby reducing a murder charge to manslaughter.

involuntary manslaughter – homicide with no intention to kill or do grievous bodily harm, but committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of a crime not included within the felony-murder rule. — aka second degree manslaughter; negligent manslaughter; manslaughter in the second degree.  Cf. ACCIDENTAL KILLING.

  • felony-murder rule – death which occurs by accident or chance during the course of the commission of a felony is first degree murder.


manslaughter with a motor vehicle (1935) Criminal negligence in which the driver knew of the danger of collision and recklessly or wantonly collided with a person who died as a result, the driver’s not having used reasonable means that were within his or her control to prevent the accident. — aka manslaughter with an automobile.

intoxication manslaughter (1993) An unintentional homicide committed by an intoxicated person while operating a vehicle or some other type of machinery.

misdemeanor manslaughter (1947) Unintentional homicide that occurs during the commission of a misdemeanor (such as a traffic violation).


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: G.W. Keeton, The Elementary Principles of Jurisprudence 315-16 (2d ed. 1949).



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