You’ve heard of the crimes of murder and manslaughter.
Perhaps you know that they refer to criminal charges against someone for another person’s death, but you don’t understand the difference between them.
Under Nebraska law, whether the accused will face murder vs. manslaughter charges depends entirely on their alleged mental state at the time of the killing.
The prosecutor will charge someone with murder if they believe they can prove the killing was intentional.
Murder and manslaughter also carry different penalties, with murder carrying a much harsher sentence.
Below, Petersen Criminal Defense Law describes the difference between murder and manslaughter charges in Nebraska.
Those facing such charges should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney from our office to determine the best defense and secure the best possible outcome.
Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter Charges
The difference between murder vs. manslaughter charges in Nebraska is the mental element.
Typically, murder is a killing with malice. Malice murders mean that the accused intended to kill or cause serious bodily injury to the deceased before they caused the harm.
Manslaughter, on the other hand, refers to killing without malice or unintentional killing.
What Is a Murder Charge in Nebraska?
Nebraska’s Criminal Code defines several types of murder charges with varying penalties.
Under Nebraska’s Revised Statute section 28-303, a person commits murder in the first degree if they kill another person:
- Purposely and with deliberate and premeditated malice;
- While committing or attempting to commit sexual assault in the first degree, arson, robbery, kidnapping, hijacking, burglary; or
- By administering poison.
In first-degree murder, the accused intends to cause harm or kill the person before they act.
The second description above doesn’t necessarily involve an intent to kill, just an intent to commit a specific illegal act.
However, a person may face a first-degree murder charge in Nebraska if they commit one of these listed acts and someone dies.
This is called the felony murder rule. The law sees the person’s intent to commit the felony as enough for a murder charge.
Under Nebraska’s Revised Statute section 28-304, a person commits murder in the second degree if they cause the death of a person intentionally but without premeditation.
The critical difference between first and second-degree murder in Nebraska is the element of premeditation.
Penalties for Murder in Nebraska
In Nebraska, first-degree murder is either a Class I or Class IA felony. Class I felonies are punishable by death, and Class IA felonies are punishable by life in prison.
First-degree murder is a Class I or IA felony. A person convicted of first-degree murder can face a life sentence or the death penalty.
Second-degree murder is generally charged as a Class IB felony and is punishable by 20 years to life in prison.
What Are Manslaughter Charges in Nebraska?
Nebraska Revised Statute 28-305 establishes two degrees of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone kills another without malice, suddenly in a fight or quarrel. This is a “heat of the moment” killing. The person may have the intent to kill someone.
However, because the impulse was sudden or the deceased provoked the person, they didn’t have time to develop the prior intent or malice, like in a murder charge.
Involuntary manslaughter is a killing without intent and provocation while committing an unlawful act. The primary difference between these two offenses is whether the actor intended to kill.
Penalties for Manslaughter in Nebraska
In Nebraska, manslaughter is generally a Class III felony. Class II felonies are punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and potential imprisonment between one and 20 years.
Defenses to Violent Crimes in Nebraska
Defense lawyers must vigorously defend and advocate on behalf of their clients. Below are some defenses a criminal defense attorney may use depending on the case’s specific circumstances.
A defense attorney may present a constitutional violation defense. These defenses usually challenge the prosecutor’s ability to use certain evidence at trial if the state obtained it in violation of the accused’s constitutional rights.
Some common constitutional violation claims involve:
- Unlawful search and seizure,
- Miranda rights violation, or
- Coerced confessions.
Evidence might be admissible in some instances even if the accused faced a constitutional violation.
Under Nebraska Revised Statute 29-2203, a person accused of a criminal offense may assert that they are not responsible by reason of insanity.
An insanity defense requires a lot of proof and many procedural steps. Speak with a criminal defense attorney if you have questions about the insanity defense.
In some cases, self-defense may be a viable defense to murder or manslaughter. Under Nebraska law, a person can use this defense if they believe they must use force against the other person to protect themselves.
An experienced attorney can help those accused of murder or manslaughter in Nebraska present a compelling defense and try to mitigate any potential penalties.
Contact Our Firm for Your Nebraska Criminal Defense Needs
If you or a loved one was recently arrested and charged with murder or manslaughter, you should contact an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Our Nebraska criminal defense lawyer, Tom Petersen, has more than 25 years of experience aggressively defending clients facing these serious allegations.
Whether he is negotiating with prosecutors to secure a favorable plea agreement, arguing to keep evidence out of a trial, or litigating your case in front of a jury, Tom has what it takes to handle even the most complex and high-stakes murder and manslaughter cases.
To learn more and to schedule a free consultation today, call 402-512-5558, or you can reach us through our online contact form.
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