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  1. #1
    HiFi is offline Member
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    Manslaughter or 2nd Degree Murder Please Explain

    Can someone please explain the likely criminal charges in the following situations as I can never understand why some people are charged with manslaughter as opposed to second degree murder (which I'm guessing is unplanned murder). Will the criminal charges for the same incidents and results vary state to state? Assume the police arrive and arrest them at the end of each scenario.

    1. 2 People get into a fight. They both have broken bones. Will they be charged with manslaughter or something less like Public disturbance.

    2. One person punches another person. THe other person punches back and kills the other person. Is this self defense or manslaughter.

    3. One person gets into an argument with another and gives the person a shove. Somehow the person falls backwards, hits his head on concrete and dies which wasn't the intention. Manslaughter, Second degree murder or a lesser charge?

    4. Same situation as #3 except one person shoves the other person and the other person shoves him back and the he falls backwards, hits his head and dies. Self defense, Manslaughter or 2nd degree murder.

    5. Person fires a gun illegally in their backyard at a stationary paper target, bullet misses the target,somehow continues across the street and kills an innocent person accidently? Illegal possession of a firearm, manslaughter or second degree murder?

    Thanks for any answers. If there are some basic rules distinguishing these charges please let me know.
  2. #2
    Indiana Filer is offline Senior Member
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    What is the name of your state? Laws are different in the different states.
  3. #3
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by HiFi View Post
    Can someone please explain the likely criminal charges in the following situations as I can never understand why some people are charged with manslaughter as opposed to second degree murder (which I'm guessing is unplanned murder). Will the criminal charges for the same incidents and results vary state to state?
    This varies by state. As pointed out in the previous reply, the legal definitions are different in each state.

    1. 2 People get into a fight. They both have broken bones. Will they be charged with manslaughter or something less like Public disturbance.
    Assuming California, neither party would be charged with manslaughter as no death occurred. Both could be charged with assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, or, battery with great bodily injury, and related offenses.

    2. One person punches another person. The other person punches back and kills the other person. Is this self defense or manslaughter.
    Assuming this is CA and that one punch and truly in self defense, it would likely be charged as manslaughter but if truly ruled as "self defense" the charge would likely be dropped or the defendant would be found not guilty based upon the elements of the offense.

    3. One person gets into an argument with another and gives the person a shove. Somehow the person falls backwards, hits his head on concrete and dies which wasn't the intention. Manslaughter, Second degree murder or a lesser charge?
    Same as above.

    4. Same situation as #3 except one person shoves the other person and the other person shoves him back and the he falls backwards, hits his head and dies. Self defense, Manslaughter or 2nd degree murder.
    Again, same as #2.

    5. Person fires a gun illegally in their backyard at a stationary paper target, bullet misses the target,somehow continues across the street and kills an innocent person accidently? Illegal possession of a firearm, manslaughter or second degree murder?
    In CA this would be manslaughter, but we don't know about the illegal possession charge because we don't know the history or status of the person with the weapon. There may be other related offenses as well.

    In my state murder generally requires an intent to kill or with malice. Unintentional or unlikely deaths are most often charged as manslaughter. Sometimes the cases might blur the line. Punching someone with a fist is not likely to kill them ... if it does, it is most often manslaughter. However, hitting a rival with brass knuckles after telling someone you would kill him if you ever saw him again, then the two of you get into a fight and he dies from the brass knuckle blows, that could be second degree murder.

    It all depends on the definitions used in your state.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  4. #4
    HiFi is offline Member
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    Thanks I've Got a Better Grasp But Still Don't Understand if you're attacked first

    Thanks for your definitions but I still don't grasp the concept of what someone is supposed to do if hit first. Isn't hitting back self defence and as long as the other guy is throwing punches at you what else are you suppose to do?
  5. #5
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by HiFi View Post
    Thanks for your definitions but I still don't grasp the concept of what someone is supposed to do if hit first. Isn't hitting back self defence and as long as the other guy is throwing punches at you what else are you suppose to do?
    Self defense is a legal determination not an automatic. If you are attacked and you shoot someone to protect yourself, you have still committed a homicide. The legal determination is whether the homicide was justified. The same with the use of force. If the use of force is deemed under relevant state law to be an act of "self defense", and "reasonable", then it is likely that no criminal violation will have taken place.

    Hitting back is not always self defense. Hitting back can also be considered retaliatory. While it can vary by state, self defense generally requires that the force be used to prevent or stop an assault. So if someone pops you and turns to walk away, you are not necessarily going to be allowed a free strike in return. If you hit him because it appears that he might continue his assault upon you, then you can likely make a claim of self defense.

    Again, state laws do vary.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

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