Under the penal code, voluntary manslaughter is the “unlawful killing of someone during a quarrel or heat of passion.” There cannot be malicious intent by the party who inflicts the harm. Penal Code §192(a) typically comes in two ways: as a plea negotiation or through a jury decision.
In both instances, there is a murder charge that is lowered to voluntary manslaughter. The murder is not under review, only the intentions and actions of the person committing the crime. You must have a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from the Simmrin Law Group to guide you through the process.
Voluntary Manslaughter Definition
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a person without malice, while voluntary manslaughter requires the killing to happen during a sudden quarrel. The prosecution must prove these elements for a conviction:
- The defendant was provoked
- The provocation causes impaired judgment or the person to act emotionally
- Any reasonable person would act in the same manner after the provocation
Essentially you lost control in the moment, and any average person would have done the same. Murder charges involve a person intentionally trying to kill another person or having a conscious disregard for human life. Murder needs the element of malice, whether implied or expressed.
Manslaughter has one other situation under Penal Code 192(a): imperfect self-defense. The most used example to differentiate murder and manslaughter is when a spouse comes home, catches their spouse cheating, and immediately shoots a gun. This example is manslaughter; conversely, if the person stops to think before they shoot, the charge is murder.
Examples of Voluntary Manslaughter
Legal definitions do not suffice for laypeople to understand the concept of voluntary manslaughter. We will provide a few examples, but remember, these are not the only ways you can reduce murder to manslaughter. You must speak to a local criminal defense lawyer to determine if your circumstances qualify for voluntary manslaughter.
Suppose you are at a murder scene and are told that your loved one’s murderer is on the scene. You then confront the alleged murderer, ending in the murderer suffering a fatal wound. That is a prime example of being in the heat of the moment and acting reasonably.
Another example is a hunter looking for deer while under the influence, believing they found one and shoots. What they thought was a deer was actually another hunter. Since the defendant disregards human life, it is a voluntary manslaughter charge.
Types of Provocations or Passion
You should be aware of additional legal definitions for voluntary manslaughter because your testimony will be contingent on your intention. During a sudden quarrel, the defense did not enter the situation looking for a fight, and the disagreement came out of nowhere. You made an impulsive decision in response to the current situation.
Imperfect self-defense is when you think you have the right to use deadly force to defend yourself, but you do not. You did not want to use deadly force but felt it was within your right and necessary to do so. While your confusion is understandable, it does not exempt you from criminal penalties, and you will face fines and imprisonment.
The heat of passion is when a provocation makes you angry and impulsive; these provocations would cause other people to react similarly. You cannot use deadly force and cite heat of passion when a person reveals their gender to you under California law. There is one exception, and that is finding out a person’s true gender.
Voluntary Manslaughter Penalties
The penalties for taking another life are life-changing regardless of your conviction or reasoning. Voluntary manslaughter in California is a felony, and when you are convicted, you will face harsh penalties like:
- One strike under California’s three strikes law
- Fines up to $10,000
- Up to eleven years in state prison
You must also attend counseling and will be unable to own a firearm. The court can grant probation under certain circumstances. There are also related crimes that can extend your sentence and penalties like:
- Penal Code §192(b) PC – involuntary manslaughter
- Penal Code §191.5(a) – gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
- Penal Code §191.5(b) – vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
- Penal Code §187 PC – second-degree Watson murder – DUI manslaughter
- Penal Code §187 PC – murder
Murder is often compared to voluntary manslaughter; if you are convicted, you will face life in prison or the death penalty. If murder is the charge, you must work with a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angles to reduce the charges to voluntary manslaughter, as it can be your best outcome.
Defenses for Voluntary Manslaughter
The Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers from Simmrin Law Group have years of experience with these charges, and we know the defense available. The most common defenses are accident, insufficient evidence, imperfect self-defense, defense of others, and self-defense.
Self-defense is when the defendant must use deadly force to respond to a threat, but the force must be equal; as the saying goes, fight fire with fire. Imperfect self-defense is when the defendant believes they need to use deadly force, but it is unreasonable to do so. Imperfect self-defense does not exhume you of murder charges and get a voluntary manslaughter charge instead.
You can also use the insanity defense, meaning you do not understand the nature of the criminal act or that your actions were morally wrong. Accidental killing is also a defense for Penal Code 192(a); accident killing involves no criminal intent to harm, lack of negligence, and the person was engaged in lawful behavior.
Fight Voluntary Manslaughter Charges with a Lawyer
California Penal Code Section 192(a) carries severe consequences and will change your life forever. You will likely need to decide to accept the consequences as part of a plea bargain in lieu of a murder conviction. However, do not lose hope, as many defenses are available to help you face the least possible consequences.
Speak with the professional criminal defense lawyers from Simmrin Law Group today and start building your defense. Call our office to schedule an appointment today.