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In most states, there is a difference between manslaughter and murder.

In Minnesota, if an individual causes the death of another, they may face manslaughter or murder charges, depending on the facts and circumstances.

The state will analyze the circumstances surrounding the homicide and determine whether to file murder or manslaughter charges.

The circumstances of a homicide will also dictate the degree of the alleged crime. 

Homicide charges can be confusing, and it can be challenging to understand the difference between a manslaughter and a murder charge. In this article, we will walk you through the key differences, including the different degrees of homicide, and 3rd degree murder vs manslaughter.

Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arechigo & Stokka to answer your questions!

Homicide vs Murder

Murder and homicide both involve the unlawful killing of a human being. Murder specifically refers to a deliberate, premeditated act of killing, characterized by malice aforethought.

On the other hand, homicide is a broader term encompassing all instances of one person causing the death of another, whether lawful or unlawful. This includes scenarios beyond intentional killings, such as accidental deaths or acts without premeditation, like manslaughter.

Minnesota Murder vs Manslaughter Statutes

Murder versus manslaughter minnesota arechigo and stokka

Manslaughter vs murder differ primarily in the intent and circumstances surrounding the act of killing.

In manslaughter, the killing occurs without premeditation or intent, often in the heat of the moment or due to reckless behavior.

Conversely, murder involves the deliberate planning and intention to cause death.

Understanding the distinction between the two is crucial in legal contexts, as it determines the severity of the charges and potential consequences.


You can be charged with first, second, or third-degree murder in Minnesota. 

First Degree Murder

Murder in the first degree is the most severe homicide offense. Under Minnesota law, an individual who causes the death of another with premeditation and intent to kill is guilty of first-degree murder.

The main difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder is the element of premeditation, also known as forethought or planning.

Second Degree Murder

An individual is guilty of second-degree murder in Minnesota if they cause the death of another with intent to cause that person’s death but without premeditation.

In other words, although the murder is intentional, there was no plan or forethought to kill. 

Third Degree Murder 

Murder in the third degree is the least severe murder charge, a step up from manslaughter.

Under the statute, an individual may be guilty of third-degree murder if, without intent to cause the death of another person, they cause their death through eminently dangerous actions, with a depraved mind, and without regard for human life.

3rd Degree Murder vs Manslaughter

3rd-degree murder, legally known as ‘felony murder,’ involves the killing of another person with malice aforethought, but without premeditation. It typically occurs during the commission of another felony.

In contrast, voluntary manslaughter is the intentional killing of another person in the heat of the moment, often due to sudden provocation or a perceived threat. This differentiation is crucial in legal contexts to determine the degree of culpability and appropriate sentencing.

3rd-degree murder vs manslaughter are distinct legal concepts, although they may share some similarities. Third-degree murder typically involves reckless behavior or indifference resulting in death, whereas manslaughter may involve unintentional killing in the heat of the moment.

While both may arise from heated arguments, voluntary manslaughter specifically pertains to killings committed in a sudden, passionate manner without premeditation.

This charge is commonly filed in cases of drug overdose deaths if the state thinks there’s evidence that someone gave or sold the deceased the controlled substance that caused the overdose death.


In Minnesota, you can be charged with first or second-degree manslaughter. 

First Degree

Under Minnesota law, first-degree manslaughter occurs when an individual:

  • Intends to cause the death of another person; and
  • Was provoked by words or actions that would provoke any ordinary reasonable person under similar circumstances.

This is often referred to as a crime of passion or killing in the heat of passion.

The classic example of a heat of passion killing is when an individual walks in on their spouse cheating and kills their spouse or lover in the heat of passion. 

Second Degree

In Minnesota, involuntary manslaughter is classified as second-degree manslaughter.

A person is guilty of second-degree manslaughter if their reckless or negligent actions result in the death of another person.

This can be a common charge in cases involving fatal car accidents.

Contact a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney Today

A skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney at Arechigo & Stokka will be your best defense against these charges.

For decades, we have represented clients accused of the harshest crimes.

We are committed to understanding each client’s unique situation and devising a strategy to achieve the best possible outcome.

Contact us right away to schedule a consultation.

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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