Murder vs. Manslaughter: Different Homicide Charges in Minnesota
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Murder vs. Manslaughter - Different Homicide Charges in Minnesota

When someone is murdered, it may seem like the accused is doomed.


But maybe the murder wasn’t intentional, or was a “crime of passion” (which is not just a term used in the movies!). For this reason, Minnesota has different charges and penalties for homicide. If you are accused of homicide, you may face the following charges:


First Degree Murder. This is the most severe crime in Minnesota’s criminal justice system. The most common distinction between first degree murder and second degree murder is the intention or plan to kill.


However, there are certain heinous behaviors or actions in a case that will result in a first degree murder charge: engaging in criminal sexual conduct that results in murder, killing a child after repeated incidents of child abuse, or killing someone while attempting to commit an act of terrorism may all be considered serious enough to be an act of first degree murder.


A more detailed list can be found here.


Because Minnesota abolished the death penalty in 1911, a first degree murder conviction will result in life in prison.


Second Degree Murder. Not all murders are premeditated – or even intended. In these cases, the accused may be charged with second degree murder. These charges are still serious, but take into account that the accused may have killed out of an intense emotional response or impulse.


The following cases typically result in a second degree murder charge:


  • The defendant did not have premeditated plans to kill the victim, but had intention to kill at the time of the murder
  • The defendant had intention to cause serious bodily harm, but not death, to the victim


Second degree murder has penalties that include up to 40 years in prison.


Third Degree Murder. The least serious of all murder charges, third degree murder occurs when the defendant does not plan or intend to commit murder, but shows an obvious indifference to the sanctify of human life. One common example of third degree murder is unintentionally killing someone after distributing Schedule I or II controlled substances.


Third degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison and $40,000 in fines.


Voluntary Manslaughter. This charge is where the term “crime of passion” comes into play. If a defendant commits a murder because they are provoked by an intense emotional response (anger, fear of imminent death, and so on) they can be charged with voluntary manslaughter.


Other situations that warrant a voluntary manslaughter charge include unintentionally causing a death by distributing Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substances, or administering a malicious punishment on a child that is not considered murder.


A voluntary manslaughter conviction results in penalties that include up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $30,000.


Minneapolis Murder Defense Lawyer

Involuntary Manslaughter. If the homicide is result of reckless actions, you may be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Manslaughter could result in separate charges as well, including manslaughter in the second degree or criminal vehicular homicide.


Manslaughter in the second degree is essentially negligence that results in the death of another person. You may, for example, mistake someone for an animal and shoot them while hunting. Neglecting a child that results in death may also be considered manslaughter in the second degree.


Criminal vehicular homicide involves the death of a person (or unborn fetus) through negligent driving or operation of a motor vehicle. If, for example, driving under the influence of alcohol results in death, the driver may be charged with criminal vehicular homicide.


Both of the above charges can result in penalties include up to 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.


As you can see, homicide charges are severe at any level, but there are options for defending yourself in court. Contact a Minnesota homicide lawyer immediately to get started on your case.


About the Author:


Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2016), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2016), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2016).

If You Need a Top Minnesota Criminal Lawyer Call 312-338-5007



With offices in Minneapolis and Stillwater, Minnesota, Keyser Law, P.A. handles cases throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area including:




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