When it comes to the most serious violent crimes — those that result in the loss of life — the language surrounding these offenses may confuse defendants. While all allegations involving violent crimes require a serious approach to defense, it is important for defendants to understand exactly what the charges against them mean. The following sections include brief overviews of three serious charges: murder, manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter.

As you might expect, murder charges can mean defendants will face the most severe consequences if convicted. What separates murder from other crimes resulting in the loss of life is premeditation or planning to kill another person. For example, when someone spends days, weeks or months planning out how to kill someone else, the defendant will likely face murder charges.

Voluntary manslaughter is similar to murder but without premeditation. Most people call these crimes of passion because they usually occur in the heat of the moment. An example to consider involves one spouse catching the other spouse in the act of cheating. The betrayed spouse might succumb to anger and lash out at the other spouse, resulting in his or her death.

Manslaughter is also serious but is usually less severe than the violent crimes discussed above. Say that you get into a physical fight with someone else. During the fight, you hit the other person and he or she falls onto a hard surface, suffers a head injury and dies. Because you did not mean to kill anyone, you may face manslaughter charges instead of murder charges.

Although these violent crimes range in their severity, defendants still need help creating the right defense. Massachusetts residents facing allegations about the death of another person will likely benefit from seeking legal counsel regardless of how severe the charges or accusations are.