Third-Degree Murder Meaning
Third-degree murder, also known as manslaughter, is very different from first and second-degree murder. The crime is different, and so is the punishment.
A defendant will be accused of third-degree murder if they unintentionally kill someone else while doing something dangerous. There has to be no intent to kill the person.
Pennsylvania, Florida, and Minnesota call this third-degree murder; most other states call it manslaughter.
What Is the Difference Between Third-Degree Murder and First or Second-Degree Murder?
First-degree murder requires premeditation or for the death to have occurred whilst committing a felony. Some states classify felony murder as first-degree murder and others as second-degree murder.
Second-degree murder is an intentional murder in the heat of the moment, so not premeditated. If the defendant planned to commit bodily harm and unintentionally killed the person, then this is second-degree murder in most states.
The terms first, second, and third-degree murder are not used in all states, and the definitions vary between states. As we have already mentioned, most states call third-degree murder manslaughter.
What Is The Difference Between Third-Degree Murder and Manslaughter?
Manslaughter is considered a less serious crime than murder in the eyes of the law. Most states classify the crime as manslaughter if the death was unintentional but could have been avoided if the defendant acted appropriately. In some states, they classify manslaughter with different degrees, similar to murder; others will just classify it as voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
Every state has a different classification system for whether a crime is manslaughter or third-degree murder. We will provide some general examples and some state-specific examples below so you can see the difference between third-degree murder and manslaughter.
- In Minnesota, third-degree murder requires malice or a depraved mind. But manslaughter in the second degree requires knowledge that they are risking someone’s life unnecessarily, and they continue the risky behavior.
- First-degree manslaughter/voluntary manslaughter/heat-of-passion manslaughter – If there is no intent to kill until strongly provoked, this may be the charge. The court will decide if a reasonable person would lose control in that way, given the provocation.
- Involuntary manslaughter carries the softest punishment of all because the death was unintentional and often accidental. To be charged with this crime, the defendant’s behavior needs to be reckless such as DUIs.
Defenses For a Third-Degree Murder Charge
A defendant may employ the following defenses in a third-degree murder trial:
- Exercise of duty
- Defense of others