When someone commits a homicide, the unlawful killing of another person, it can be categorized as either murder or manslaughter. However, distinguishing between the two can be tricky, and somewhat subjective. The way a crime is typified may depend on the intentions of the defendant, their behavior, or whether or not they were provoked.

If you are facing charges of either murder or manslaughter, it is crucial that you understand the difference and how each may be defended in court to preserve your rights and freedom.


Legally, murder is defined as an intentional, unlawful killing committed with “malice aforethought.” In other words, the killing had to be intentional and illegal to be considered murder. However, the murder itself need not be intended. If the defendant intended bodily harm that resulted in the person’s death or behaved recklessly and without regard for life in a way that resulted in the person’s death, which is also considered murder.

Murder may be categorized as either first or second degree, depending on the severity of the crime. First-degree murder is far more serious, usually because the killing was premeditated, and can result in life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Second-degree murder is a less serious crime and may lead to a prison sentence of up to 20 years, as well as a $10,000 fine.


Manslaughter may either be classified as involuntary or voluntary, depending on the intentions of the defendant. Unlike murder, voluntary manslaughter does not involve malice aforethought or the intention to commit serious harm to the victim. Instead, voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone is strongly provoked to kill in the heat of the moment. Manslaughter is commonly referred to a “heat of passion” crime because it occurs only when someone provokes an otherwise reasonable person.

Manslaughter is a less serious crime than murder, and to prove that it was indeed manslaughter, there must be proof or provocation. In San Antonio, Texas, manslaughter may be convicted as a second-degree felony and can result in between 2 to 20 years behind bars.

If the person was criminally negligent or reckless, meaning they acted unreasonably, the crime may be considered involuntary manslaughter. In other words, involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing, and can also happen through the commission of a crime other than a felony. However, the line may become blurred with the definition of an unintentional killing, because if extreme recklessness was involved the crime may be considered second-degree murder instead.

Murder vs. Manslaughter

In short, murder involves intentional harm to another person, whether it was an intentional killing or serious bodily damage that resulted in the person’s death. Manslaughter, on the other hand, is considered a provoked act of killing, and while not intentional, is still unlawful. However, intentions are often hard to prove because they require the judge and jury to understand the mindset of the defendant at the time of the killing and beforehand. Because of this issue, these differences can be difficult to distinguish in most cases where intent was not explicitly expressed and documented.

Defense Against Murder or Manslaughter Charges

If you or someone you love is charged with either murder or manslaughter, it is crucial that you find an experienced criminal defense attorney to begin building your case.

Some critical defenses I, Attorney Chelkowski, may look for include:

  • An alibis for the defendant at the time of the crime
  • Proof that the defendant acted in self-defense
  • Proof that the defendant acted in the defense of others
  • A case of mistaken identity (the prosecution has charged the wrong person)
  • The defendant, usually an officer in this case, acted in the name of duty
  • The killing was an accident or an unfortunate mistake

As a top-rated Texas attorney with a near-perfect track record defending clients facing criminal charges, I, Kerrisa Chelkowski, am confident in my ability to fight for you. I have been included in Texas Super Lawyers® Rising Stars℠ list for 6 consecutive years, and have over a decade of experience both as a prosecutor and a San Antonio criminal defense lawyer. If you are facing criminal charges, such as murder or manslaughter, I want to help you. I can use my ample resources to aggressively defend your rights and seek to have your criminal charges reduced or dropped if at all possible.

Contact the Law Office of Kerrisa Chelkowski to get started on your case.