If you face manslaughter charges, you could potentially pay thousands of dollars in fines or spend years behind bars. A skilled manslaughter defense lawyer from Simmrin Law Group will review your case and work to have your charges dismissed or reduced.
What Is Voluntary Manslaughter?
Under California Penal Code 192, Voluntary Manslaughter is the act of killing a person “without malice” during a sudden argument or “in the heat of passion.” Voluntary manslaughter applies to situations in which defendants kill in response to a provocation. That provocation, the court determines, could justifiably incite a reasonable person to an extreme, even deadly, response.
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What Is the Difference Between Voluntary Manslaughter and Murder?
A person who kills a victim intentionally or with conscious disregard for human life can be charged with murder or voluntary manslaughter. What differentiates the charges is whether there was “malice aforethought.” A person who kills with deliberate malice can be convicted of murder.
Voluntary manslaughter is an unlawful killing, but as it does not occur with malice aforethought, it is a lesser charge. Voluntary manslaughter is rarely an initial charge. When a person kills another, the usual charge is murder.
Voluntary manslaughter charges often result from plea bargaining. The defendant admits guilt for the killing and, in return, receives reduced charges. Murder charges cannot be reduced if the killing occurred while the defendant was carrying out an inherently dangerous felony, such as robbery.
What Is the Penalty for Voluntary Manslaughter?
Voluntary manslaughter is a felony. Those convicted can face state prison sentences of three, six, or eleven years. Sentences may also include
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Loss of, or a reduction in, gun ownership rights
- Community service
- Counseling or other conditions
The court may also choose to impose a one-year jail sentence plus formal probation.
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What Is Involuntary Manslaughter?
Involuntary manslaughter applies when a person:
- Commits an infraction, a misdemeanor, a felony that is not inherently dangerous, or commits a legal action in an unlawful way, and
- Commits that crime or act with criminal negligence, and
- The action causes the victim’s death.
To convict on involuntary manslaughter charges, prosecutors must prove the defendant acted with criminal negligence, which occurs when
- The defendant acted recklessly, creating a situation likely to cause death or great bodily injury, and
- A reasonable person would have known that such recklessness would create serious risk.
Defendants’ actions are determined to have caused the victim’s death when that death is the direct, natural, and probable result of the defendant’s actions, and the death would not have occurred except for those actions.
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What Are the Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter?
Involuntary manslaughter is a felony in California. Sentences can include felony probation, two to four years in jail, and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter charges apply when a victim dies because the defendant operates a vehicle negligently or recklessly:
- While committing a misdemeanor
- During a legal act that could cause death, or
- To deliberately crash the vehicle for financial gain
As with involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors must prove the victim’s death was a natural, direct, and probable result of the defendant’s negligence.
What Are the Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter?
There is a range of possible penalties for vehicular manslaughter charges.
With Gross Negligence
Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is a wobbler offense, meaning it can bring felony or misdemeanor charges depending on the specific details of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. Misdemeanor charges carry sentences potentially including:
- A fine of up to $1000
- Up to one year in county jail
- Misdemeanor probation
Felony charges can yield:
- A fine of up to $10,000
- A two, four, or six-year prison sentence
- Felony probation
Without Gross Negligence
Vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence (misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter) brings a misdemeanor sentence. If defendants are in the process of committing a felony when they kill their victims with a vehicle, they can face murder charges. Additionally, felony charges apply if the defendant received vehicular manslaughter charges when crashing the vehicle for financial gain.
Defendants convicted of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence or vehicular manslaughter for financial gain will have their licenses revoked for at least three years.
What Is Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated?
Penal Code 191.5 establishes vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated as a crime distinct from vehicular manslaughter. The charge applies if the defendant’s act of driving while intoxicated causes the victim’s death. It is a wobbler offense.
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated applies when the defendant’s act of driving while under the influence and gross negligence causes the death of another. This offense is a felony, bringing a four, six, or ten-year state prison sentence.
DUI Murder or “Watson” Murder
A “Watson” murder is declared if the defendant:
- Kills another person while driving under the influence,
- Is a repeat offender, and
- Has received education about the risks of DUI or received a “Watson advisement” when convicted of a prior DUI conviction, they may be charged with DUI murder or “Watson” murder.
These charges are prosecuted under California’s murder laws and can bring a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.
Does Manslaughter Count as a “Strike?”
Under California’s Three Strikes sentencing laws, defendants can receive a sentence of 25 years to life if convicted of three or more serious or violent felonies. The three strikes law doubles prison sentences for defendants convicted of any California felony if those defendants have two prior convictions for violent or serious felonies.
Under these rules, crimes that bring felony manslaughter charges can potentially count as a “strike.”
What Are Defenses for Manslaughter?
An experienced California manslaughter defense attorney will review your case and determine the best option for your defense.
- Self-Defense: You acted under the reasonable and sincere belief that you or someone else was in danger of being assaulted or killed by the victim.
- Insanity: At the time of the act, you did not understand what you were doing or could not comprehend that your actions were morally wrong.
- Accident: You did not intend to hurt anyone and were not acting negligently or unlawfully when the event occurred.
With so Much on the Line, You Need a Lawyer
Manslaughter charges are complicated and come with a range of consequences. Lesser consequences will cost you time and money, and the most severe can send you to prison for years, decades, or life. If you are facing manslaughter charges, secure legal representation with a manslaughter defense attorney who knows the law, will help find evidence to support your defense, and has the skills and experience necessary to negotiate with tough prosecutors.
You will find this attorney at Simmrin Law Group. Contact us today.