Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Manslaughter Definition:

Unlawful killing of a human being without malice or deliberation.

Related Terms: Murder, Homicide, First Degree Murder, M, Mutual Combat, Heat of Passion, Involuntary Manslaughter

Accidental homicide or homicide which occurs without an intent to kill.

In Book 4 of his Commentaries, William Blackstone defined manslaughter as:

"Manslaughter is ... the unlawful killing of another without malice, either express or implied; which may be either voluntarily, upon a sudden heat, or involuntarily, but in the commission of some unlawful act."

The US Code at Title 18, §1112 defines manslaughter as:

"Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.

"It is of two kinds: voluntary — Upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion (or) involuntary — In the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act which might produce death."

In Canada, from R v Couperthwaite 2006 MBQB 111:

"Manslaughter constitutes an unlawful killing of another person without malice, either express or implied.  The unlawful killing may be either voluntary by virtue of acting upon a sudden impulse, or involuntary."

In the 2002 case of R. v Baker, Justice Williams of the Supreme Court of Queensland - Court of Appeal wrote:

"It has often been said that the offence of manslaughter covers a wide variety of circumstances in which a person has been unlawfully killed. Because of that it is difficult to speak of a range of punishment applicable to the offence, and it explains why it is sometimes difficult to reconcile one sentence of manslaughter with another. Many crimes of manslaughter involve what could be described as a one on one situation. In many such instances there are complicating features such as provocation, excessive self-defence and a single blow (with or without a weapon) delivered in a highly emotional situation. Such cases can readily be distinguished from a planned gang attack on a relatively defenceless person in a remote locality. There is an even greater abhorrence generally in society when such an attack is carried out with retribution as its main object."

Compare with murder.

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