The differences between murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter, as well as their respective penalties in the state of Ohio, can be hard to understand.
Simply put, “murder” is the intentional killing of another person, while “manslaughter” is the unintentional killing of another person.
Of course, there is quite a bit of nuance to whether an act is considered intentional or unintentional, as well as the severity of the act itself. All of this comes into play when determining the penalty.
Below, Ohio defense attorney Max Hiltner will dive deeper into each of these terms and their consequences, as well as how Ohio courts decide between them.
What is the difference between murder and manslaughter in Ohio?
If they killed a person with intent, the act is classified as murder. If they killed a person without intent, the act is classified as manslaughter.
To understand the defendant’s intent, Ohio courts will investigate the surrounding context of the killing.
For instance, if there is evidence that the defendant used a violent weapon to directly kill another person in close quarters, this is more likely to be ruled as murder. If there is evidence that the victim died as a result of the defendant’s negligence, this is more likely to be ruled as manslaughter.
There is no statute of limitations for murder in Ohio, but the statute of limitations for manslaughter is 20 years.
Ohio law describes certain special circumstances under which someone might be charged with aggravated murder. Aggravated murder is a more severe charge than murder, and can be more likely to garner a life in prison or capital punishment sentence.
Aggravated murder can include any of the following circumstances:
- The unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy
- Purposely killing a child under 13 years old
- Purposely killing a law enforcement officer, first responder, or military member
- Purposely causing another’s death while committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing a separate felony
What is the difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter in Ohio?
Voluntary manslaughter describes situations in which the defendant intentionally killed another person, but only out of sudden impulse (e.g. anger, passion, self-defense), and without premeditation. According to Ohio Revised Code (Title XXIX § 2903.03), this can also include unlawfully terminating a victim’s pregnancy.
This is distinct from murder in that voluntary manslaughter must be committed in the heat of the moment, without any evidence of prior planning or intent. If there is evidence that the defendant had time to calm down in between the inciting moment and the killing, the defendant is more likely to be charged with murder.
Involuntary manslaughter describes situations in which the defendant did not intentionally kill another person, but directly caused their death via negligence, recklessness, and/or disregard for another person’s life (e.g. traffic fatalities, accidental weapon discharge, etc).
What are the penalties for murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter in Ohio?
The severity of penalties for murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter depend on the degree of the charge.
The most serious charges are classified as First Degree Felonies, and the least serious charges are classified as Minor Misdemeanors.
The degree of your charge will depend on whether the murder or manslaughter was premeditated, committed during a felony, reckless or negligent, and on other factors.
Below are some examples of the penalties that you could face, depending on your charge.
Potential first-degree felony charges in Ohio:
- 15-30 years in prison
- A life sentence in prison
- The death penalty
Potential second-degree felony charges in Ohio:
- A $15,000 fine
- 2-8 years in prison
Potential third-degree felony charges in Ohio:
- $10,000 fine
- 9 months – 8 years in prison
Potential first-degree misdemeanor charges in Ohio:
- $1,000 fine
- 6 months in prison
Murder and manslaughter are serious charges that come with lasting consequences if you are found guilty. So it is imperative that you work with an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney to stand up for you in court.
Contact Hiltner Trial Lawyers today
At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we’ll use all our experience, resources, and knowledge to make sure you get the best deal possible.
If you are accused of murder, involuntary manslaughter, or voluntary manslaughter in Ohio, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a free consultation. Looking out for your rights is our top priority.