Six types of murder and three types of manslaughter

The latest in my ‘Learn Something New Every Day’ series – taken from The Great Courses’ Trails of Evidence: How Forensic Science Works (Lecture 32: Comparing Crimes and Crime Labs)

With six types of murder and three types of manslaughter in the mix it can be hard to know what each one means. Here’s a broad breakdown.


  • First degree murder – highest level of premeditation and indifference to the victim
  • Second degree murder – There was a definite intent to harm but not necessarily kill
  • Third degree murder –  The death happened as a result of indifference or neglect
  • Fourth degree murder – Used to charge the accomplice in a homicide
  • Aggravated felony murder – the (non-participant) victim dies during the commission of a crime which is considered a felony
  • Justifiable Homicide (as in self-defence situations) is a murder classification but not a charge, because there would be no case to answer.


  • Manslaughter – implies no specific intent to kill
  • Involuntary Manslaughter – perpetrator was engaged in criminal negligent behaviour but didn’t intent to take a life
  • Voluntary Manslaughter – when someone takes a life during circumstances that altered the killer’s behaviour beyond their control (crimes of passion)

So…now you know.