Tennessee Law Series: Murder And Manslaughter

 In Criminal Law

Over the next few weeks, we are going to begin a series on Tennessee Law. Each state can put different laws into place and the federal laws that apply to all 50 states. This week we’re going to focus on murder laws and manslaughter laws, including Tennessee’s stance on each.


Manslaughter convictions fall into two categories, including voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.


FindLaw defines voluntary manslaughter as an intentional killing in which the offender had no prior intent to kills, such as a killing that occurs in the heat of the moment. The event leading up to the situation deciphers the charges. If there is a belief the reasonable offender became emotionally or mentally-disturbed, it could fall under manslaughter. If not, the killing qualifies as murder. There are various sentences for voluntary manslaughter that are often left to the judge to decide.  For example, if an upstanding citizen sees something and becomes overcome with intense emotion that leads to a killing, it could be considered voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.


Involuntary manslaughter refers to an unintentional killing resulting from criminal negligence, recklessness, or committing an offense such as a DUI. These charges commonly occur after deadly car accidents. For example, someone leaves a bar after drinking too much and accidentally hits and kills someone; it could be considered involuntary manslaughter.  This form of manslaughter typically has less severe punishments than voluntary manslaughter.


Manslaughter is the killing of someone either unintentionally or in the heat of the moment. If any killing occurs outside of these boundaries, it falls into the murder category. There are also two categories of murder.


Second-degree murder falls in between manslaughter and first-degree murder. It is more severe than voluntary manslaughter but different than first-degree murder. This degree of murder is a Class A felony, which is the highest level of felony in Tennessee. Second-degree murder falls into one of two types of killings in Tennessee:

  1. A knowing killing of another
  2. A killing of another caused by the unlawful sale of drugs

Penalty includes:

  • Class A felony – 15 to 60 years in prison
  • Fine up to $50,000


This is the most severe action against another human a person commits. The punishment for first-degree murder surpasses all other homicides, including manslaughter and second-degree. First-degree murder also falls into one of two types of killings in Tennessee:

  1. Intentional, planned ahead, or felony murders
  2. Murder committed during a violent felony

In addition, the death penalty or life in prison without parole only occurs where an aggravating factor is proven by the state beyond a reasonable doubt. For more information on aggravating factors, click here.

To learn more about different laws in the state of Tennessee please contact Slaughter Law Firm. If you have been convicted or a victim of a crime, our attorney Frankie Slaughter Jr. can help. With over 22 years of experience, Mr. Slaughter has been assisting in cases varying in degree or area of law. To schedule an appointment, you can visit us online here or call us at  (423) 844-0560 today!