Manslaughter is a serious crime in California with severe punishment, including a substantial amount of fine and prolonged prison sentence following a conviction. The criminal act of manslaughter is usually confused with murder. The two are different in that, for murder, one must have a malicious intent to cause the demise of another party, while manslaughter is killing another person without malice aforethought.
In California, manslaughter is divided into three categories, and they include:
- Voluntary manslaughter,
- Involuntary manslaughter, and
- Vehicular manslaughter.
According to the California law PC 192 (a), voluntary manslaughter is defined as the act of killing another person during a heat of passion or upon a sudden quarrel. There is no requirement for the prosecutor to prove that you had malicious intent to kill another individual to be charged with this crime.
For you to be found guilty of Voluntary manslaughter, it’s a requirement by the California PC 192 (a) for the prosecutor to demonstrate that:
- You were provoked,
- Due to the provocation, you acted with impaired reasoning and judgment
- Any rational person would have acted in the same way when faced with the same provocation
Simply put, it means that when you committed the act, you reacted emotionally rather than logically and also, you did not allow for clear reasoning. The prosecution must prove that you lost self-control due to the circumstances and acted just as any other reasonable person would in a similar scenario.
Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter Charges
If you’re facing voluntary manslaughter charges, the best course of action to protecting your rights is retaining a skilled and experienced manslaughter criminal defense attorney. If you retain legal counsel form Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we will develop the best possible defense strategy to get the charges against you dismissed or reduced. Some of the legal defenses that our attorneys can employ include:
- i) Accident
You cannot be charged with voluntary manslaughter if you accidentally killed someone. However, accident as a defense can only work in California if:
- You had no criminal intent to cause harm
- You were not acting out of negligence during the accident
- You were otherwise involved in legitimate conduct when the accidental killing took place
- ii) Insanity
Another defense that can be applied is insanity. If you were legally insane when you committed the act, you can get a verdict of not guilty. It could be that you have a mental illness that made you not to comprehend the nature of your actions or differentiate between right and wrong. If you get the jury convinced of your insanity, you’ll be sent to a mental hospital instead of prison.
iii) Self-defense or defense of others
An experienced attorney will be able to establish a strong defense to demonstrate that you pure acted in self-defense or your actions were meant to offers defense to others. According to PC 198.5, the California’s self-defense laws your killing the person of another is justifiable if you committed the act to protect yourself or another person from being a victim of a forcible and terrible crime, suffering great bodily injury, or being killed. The laws allow one to apply all reasonable measures necessary to protect themselves or others when faced with such threats. However, the intensity of the force you apply must be only necessary to protect yourself against danger. For this defense to apply in your case, you must provide enough evidence to support your claims. Retaining a zealous and resourceful will ensure that you get the evidence to counteract that provided by the prosecutor.
Penalties for Voluntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter is a felony under California Penal Code Section 192(a). A conviction comes with three, six, or eleven years in a state prison. In addition, voluntary manslaughter could prompt the following penalties and punishment:
- A fine of up to $10000,
- Community service
- Counselling services
- Loss of the right to buy or own a firearm
Given that voluntary manslaughter counts as a strike under the California’s Three Strike Law, you need the expertise of an experienced Pasadena Criminal Attorney who can fight on your behalf.
Definition of Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is charged under California Penal Code Section 192(b). It's defined as the unintentional killing of another person. This, therefore, implies that for one to be charged with involuntary manslaughter, there is no need for malice aforethought. For instance, on a very hot day, a farm owner sends his workers to pluck tea. One of them is a pregnant woman, who collapses and dies due to heatstroke. For you to be found guilty of PC 192(b) violation, the prosecution must prove that:
- You committed an act that is an infraction, a misdemeanor, but not an inherently dangerous felony. Also, it could be a lawful act done in an unlawful manner
- You acted with criminal negligence when committing the act or crime
- Your actions caused a direct, natural, and probable death of the another person
Penalties for involuntary manslaughter
Even with the fact that involuntary manslaughter is seen as a lesser crime as compared to voluntary manslaughter, it’s still a felony offense. Some of the possible penalties that one can face if convicted include:
- 2, 3, or 4 years in jail
- A fine not exceeding $10,000
- Felony (formal) probation
In most cases, involuntary manslaughter results in a civil lawsuit by those close to the casualty, especially the family. If these succeed, the respondent is likely to face very large civil verdicts. Also, if you’re convicted of involuntary manslaughter after killing another person accidentally using a firearm or any other deadly weapon, the conviction will be a strike crime under California’s three-strikes law.
Potential Defenses to an Involuntary Manslaughter
When faced with Penal Code 192(b) charges, an expert manslaughter defense attorney can present on your behalf a variety of legal defenses, including:
Self-defense or in defense of another person
This legal defense is only applicable when it is evident that you believed you or someone else was facing danger, you believed that you had to use force for defense, and the force you used was not excessive in defending against that particular danger. By demonstrating these facts, one cannot be convicted of involuntary manslaughter under PC 192(b).
Just like other cases, one can be falsely accused of committing involuntary manslaughter. This could be as a result of anger, jealousy or revenge. For instance, the family of the alleged victim may want to minimize their role in the suicidal death of their family member by blaming it all on someone else. A criminal attorney who understands the stake and the significance of technical details can be enormously valuable in defending against charges of involuntary manslaughter.
Following an accidental killing, the police may make a quick decision and present it to the prosecutor. This, however, may not demonstrate fully what conspired during the incident. It's therefore significant for you to hire a resourceful lawyer who will gather evidence to counteract that provided by the prosecution. The attorney will interrogate witnesses, cross-examine the evidence provided, and even check with independent forensic to reveal what exactly took place.
Also, your attorney could argue that the death was accidental and you had no malicious intent.
Vehicular manslaughter in California Penal Code 192 (c)
Penal Code 192 (c) vehicular manslaughter is defined as causing the death of another individual in the course of driving, by carelessly committing either a lawful act that might cause death or an illegal action that is not a felony in California. Instances when your action can be considered vehicular manslaughter offense include texting while driving, speeding, grooming, or using a cell phone without a hands-free device. You might be sentenced of vehicular manslaughter if a passenger or the driver of the vehicle you hit dies of injuries that can be linked to the crash, a pedestrian was killed as a consequence of your careless behavior or a passenger in the vehicle that you were driving dies as consequence of your reckless conduct. However, killing another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is charged differently under Penal Code 191.5(a).
For you to be convicted of a Vehicular manslaughter offense under the California Penal Code Section 192 (c), the prosecution must prove the following conditions successfully:
- You committed a misdemeanor, infraction, or an illegal act in an unlawful way while driving a vehicle,
- Under the conditions of its commission, the act was dangerous to human life
- The misdemeanor, infraction or otherwise illegal action was committed with ordinary negligence, and
- The act caused the death of another individual.
Vehicular manslaughter is classified in 3 forms:
- Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence- you acted with gross negligence while driving and that caused another person’s death
- Ordinary vehicular manslaughter- ordinary negligence caused you not to act with reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm to another person
- Vehicular manslaughter for a monetary benefit- a good example is a situation where one causes an accident with the intent of making a false insurance claim only for the accident to cause the death of another passenger, driver, or pedestrian.
Potential Defenses to a Vehicular Manslaughter Charge
Accidents are bound to occur when people drive cars. Unfortunately, law enforcement and prosecutors react to dreadful catastrophes by pressing vehicular manslaughter charges in situations that such charges are unfair or unjustifiable. When faced with such a situation, there are various legal defenses your criminal attorney might use to get the charges dismissed or have them reduced. These comprise:
You did not act with negligence or gross negligence
Driving a car necessitates all of us to make quick judgments and it’s, therefore, difficult to contend that these choices, even if they eventually turn tragic were so bad to qualify as negligent. And if you’re charged with Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, your lawyer may argue that your conduct was merely negligent. If this defense goes through, your potential penalties can be reduced, and also, your driver’s license will not be revoked.
Your negligence didn't cause the death of the victim
It is always a challenge to sort out cases involving car accidents. For instance, if you acted with negligence when you were driving and that caused another person to die, it’s possible that the prosecution cannot prove that it was your fault as opposed to that of the victim or a third party, that caused the death and hence, you’re guilty of vehicular manslaughter. A skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer, with the assistance of accident reconstruction expert witness, will know how to challenge the prosecution’s account of the events that led to the accident.
You encountered a sudden emergency
Under California vehicular manslaughter law, if you’re faced with an unforeseen emergency, you just need to employ the same care that any ordinarily careful individual would employ under similar circumstances. If that's what happened, then you cannot be deemed to have been negligent or grossly negligent. For instance, if you were avoiding running over debris or hitting a deer and then you veered into oncoming traffic, your defense attorney could claim that your conduct was not negligent enough to warrant a vehicular manslaughter sentence.
Punishment for PC 192(c) Violation
Under California Penal Code Section 192(c), vehicular manslaughter can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on your criminal record and the facts of each case. The punishments for the violation of vehicular manslaughter law is contingent on whether you acted with ordinary negligence or gross negligence.
If gross negligence was involved, the offense can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor since it is a wobbler. If convicted of a felony, you will face state imprisonment of up to 6 years and 1 year in county jail for a misdemeanor conviction. However, if you only acted with ordinary negligence, then your offense is a misdemeanor, which attracts a sentence of up to 1 year in county jail.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you’re involved in a car accident and someone dies as a result of it, it’s no doubt that you’ll be left in grief. It can even be a nightmare to face vehicular manslaughter charges. You may be filled with guilt but that does not mean letting your rights go down the drain. You can avoid the criminal penalties by contacting an attorney with a proven track record in defending those accused of manslaughter successfully. A charge of vehicular manslaughter is a serious matter that entirely depends on the particulars of every case. The attorneys at Pasadena Criminal Attorney will assist you to develop the best defense that is founded on the evidence in your case. Contact us today at 626-689-2277.