You may have heard of court cases where someone is charged with murder in the first degree or where a person is charged with manslaughter. You might wonder how these charges are different. After all, in both cases someone was killed. West Virginia law specifies different types of murder and how those charges are handled.

According to the West Virginia Legislature, there are four possible murder charges. They range from the most heinous to accidental. The worst murder charge that comes with the highest possible penalties is first degree murder. This type of murder is any situation where a person planned to murder someone else or committed the murder while committing another felony crime. It carries a sentence of life in prison.

Manslaughter lacks the premeditation of murder. The person may not have meant to kill the other person upon approaching the person. It can be voluntary or involuntary. Typically, involuntary manslaughter is accidental in nature whereas voluntary manslaughter is done with the intent to kill.  Voluntary manslaughter carries a possible sentence of three to 15 years in prison. Involuntary manslaughter is not a felony charge like the other murder charges. It is a misdemeanor that carries up to one year of jail time. This information is for education and is not legal advice.

Murder in the second degree is similar to that of murder in the first degree. It essentially is any murder that cannot be tried as first-degree murder or manslaughter. It is punishable by a prison sentence of 10 to 40 years.