Manslaughter Laws in California
Manslaughter is a criminal offense that involves the killing of another person without malice or premeditation. Manslaughter laws in California are divided into two categories: voluntary and involuntary. It differs from first- and second-degree murder in that it involves the reckless disregard of another person’s right to life, rather than a willful, intentional, or premeditated killing.
At Dod Law, APC, we strive to help our clients understand the nuances of California’s manslaughter laws and the potential consequences of a conviction. Our goal is to ensure that our clients are well-informed and prepared before entering the courtroom. In this article, we’ll discuss the definitions of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, the legal elements of each offense, and potential defenses to these charges.
What Is Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter?
While they sound very similar, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter have distinct differences. To build a strong defense, it’s important to understand the elements of each.
Voluntary Manslaughter Elements & Penalties – Manslaughter Laws in California
Voluntary manslaughter is a killing that is done in the heat of the moment, without premeditation or malice. This type of killing typically occurs when a person is provoked by someone else’s action and responds in an emotional, irrational way. Generally, the provocation must be sufficient to cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed.
The penalties for voluntary manslaughter in California depend on the circumstances of the crime and the offender’s criminal history. Generally, voluntary manslaughter is a felony offense that carries a sentencing range from probation to one to 10 years in a California state prison and fines up to $10,000. However, aggravating circumstances can affect the sentencing range and monetary penalties. In addition to these penalties, a conviction of voluntary manslaughter will incur a strike under California’s three-strikes law.
Involuntary Manslaughter Elements & Penalties – Manslaughter Laws in California
Involuntary manslaughter is a killing that occurs as a result of an act that is reckless or negligent, but not intentional. This type of manslaughter usually involves an unintentional death that is a result of the accused’s careless behavior, such as driving while intoxicated or engaging in a dangerous activity.
Generally, involuntary manslaughter is a felony offense that carries a sentencing range from felony probation and two to four years in a California state prison and fines up to $10,000. However, similar to voluntary manslaughter, a conviction of involuntary manslaughter will incur a strike under California’s three-strikes law if a firearm was involved in the incident.
Potential Defenses to Manslaughter Charges
There are only a few defensive strategies available to individuals charged with manslaughter. It is important to remember that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the charge. Common defenses to manslaughter charges include:
Self-Defense or the Defense of Another
While this defense is appropriate for voluntary manslaughter, it is less effective against involuntary manslaughter. The elements needed to prove self-defense are:
- The defendant reasonably believed that he/she or another person was in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm or death
- The defendant had no reasonable opportunity to avoid the danger
- The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against the danger.
However, because the element of negligence exists for involuntary manslaughter while also lacking the element of intent, it can be difficult to prove self-defense in these cases.
This is a common defense for both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The accused must prove that the killing was an accident and that they did not intend to kill the victim, they were not acting in a negligent manner, and they were not involved in the commission of a crime at the time. To achieve this, the defense will typically present evidence that the accused acted in a reasonable manner and that the death was a result of circumstances beyond the accused’s control.
Reach Out to An Experienced Manslaughter Defense Attorney Dod Law, APC who knows Manslaughter Laws in California
Being arrested for manslaughter or any other criminal offense is a daunting experience, and the stakes are high. Spending time in jail awaiting trial can lead to the loss of your career, only further compounding the trouble you may face. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges for manslaughter, it is important to seek legal help from a qualified criminal defense attorney.
At Dod Law, APC, we understand how difficult it can be to face criminal charges and the potential consequences that come with a conviction. Our team with over 18 years of experience is here to provide you with the legal advice and representation you need to fight your charges and protect your rights. Contact us online or call us at (619) 814-5110 today to schedule a free consultation.