What’s the Difference Between Homicide, Murder & Manslaughter in Georgia

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When a person takes the life of another, the act is often described simply as “murder.” However, murder is a type of homicide crime along with manslaughter. And, manslaughter can be either involuntary or voluntary. I know, it can get confusing. That’s why if you have been accused or are  a suspect in a homicide investigation, we strongly encourage you to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help you devise the best possible defense for your case. At Bixon Law can help by putting our years of experience to work. The unlawful killing of another person is a serious crime no matter the category it falls in. Call us today!

Homicide in Georgia

A homicide occurs when there is a killing of a human being caused by another human being with criminal intent and no legal excuse or justification. Homicide crimes include murder, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter. Which crime a defendant is charged with depends on the defendant’s actions and state of mind (i.e. whether there was malice, premeditation and deliberation).

Murder in Georgia

The state of Georgia does not differentiate murder by degrees except with one exception. Second-degree murder occurs when, in the commission of cruelty to children in the second degree, the defendant caused the death of another human being irrespective of malice.

Moreover, a person commits the offense of murder in Georgia when he or she unlawfully kills another human being with malice aforethought, either express or implied. Express malice is that deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstance capable of proof. Implied malice exists where there is no clear provocation or where the circumstances show a reckless disregard for life or an abandoned and malignant heart (O.C.G.A. 16-5-1).

Penalties for Murder in Georgia

A person convicted of the offense of murder shall be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole, or by imprisonment for life. A person convicted of the offense of murder in the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than ten nor more than 30 years.

Manslaughter in Georgia

In Georgia, manslaughter can be either voluntary or involuntary:

Voluntary Manslaughter

A person commits the offense of voluntary manslaughter when he causes the death of another human being under circumstances which would otherwise be murder and if he acts solely as the result of a sudden, violent, and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation sufficient to excite such passion in a reasonable person. However, if there should have been an interval between the provocation and the killing sufficient for the voice of reason and humanity to be heard, of which the jury in all cases shall be the judge, the killing shall be attributed to deliberate revenge and be punished as murder (O.C.G.A. 16-5-2).

A murder charge can be reduced to voluntary manslaughter; however, the killing cannot be premeditated or deliberated beforehand—it must be done “in the heat of the moment.” If the defendant had any time to “cool off” and think about their actions before committing the act of killing another person then the crime is generally charged as murder. The cooling-off period usually has to be a significant passage of time. In Davis v. State, 140 Ga. App. 890 (1977), the Court concluded that a cooling off period that lasts five to fifteen minutes still constitutes voluntary manslaughter as a matter of law and not murder.

Further, without a showing of “sudden, violent, and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation” a judge is not likely to reduce a defendant’s charges. In the case of Foster v. State, 294 Ga. 383 (2014), the Court denied the defendant’s request to have his charges reduced from murder to voluntary manslaughter. The defendant fired a gun in the direction of a group of people he did not know and did not provide any evidence showing that he had been provoked.

Penalties for Voluntary Manslaughter

A person who commits the offense of voluntary manslaughter, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years.

Involuntary Manslaughter

A person commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act when he caused the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of any unlawful act other than a felony. A person who commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so, by the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm (O.C.G.A. 16-5-3). 

Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter

A person who commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year no more than ten years. A person who commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as for a misdemeanor, punishable by less than one year in prison.

Defenses to Homicide Crimes

Intent-to-kill and voluntary manslaughter are specific intent crimes. Therefore, they are crimes that require an intent to kill even when mitigated by provocation. If the prosecution cannot establish that the defendant had the intent to cause the death of another person then the charges could be dismissed or reduced. Further, a similar defense could be to provide evidence to support that the killing was accidental rather than intentional. And, of course, a defendant who acted to protect himself or herself from death or great bodily harm can claim self-defense.

Contact Bixon Law Today

If you or someone you know has been charged with a homicide crime, call Bixon Law. Michael Bixon represents clients in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. He is committed to helping his clients through difficult situations and working to get them the best possible outcome. We invite you to call us at 404-551-5684 for a free consultation today.


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