Manslaughter is unintentionally killing another person while committing an offense that is not a felony but can result in death. Manslaughter could be voluntary or involuntary, depending on the circumstances of the case. However, an intent to kill is not required for manslaughter charges to stand. A conviction for voluntary or involuntary manslaughter has severe legal consequences, including time in prison and hefty fines. Also, immense social stigma accompanies individuals who have a manslaughter criminal record. If you or your loved one is facing manslaughter criminal charges, you will require competent legal guidance. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we work hard to present defenses in your case and help you avoid the legal penalties. We serve clients throughout Orange County, to ensure the best possible outcome for your situation.

Overview of Involuntary Manslaughter

You will be arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter if you cause the death of another person while committing an offense that is not a felony. However, it is crucial to understand that an intention to kill is not required to prove that you committed this offense.

Before you are convicted for involuntary manslaughter in California, the prosecutor is required to prove the following elements of the crime:

  1. You Committed an Offense or a Lawful Act in a Criminal Manner

You will be charged for involuntary manslaughter if you do something wrong, according to California criminal law. For this offense, your criminal act could either be a misdemeanor or an infraction which carries a lesser penalty. Also, you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you committed an act that is not a criminal offense but as done unlawfully. It is crucial to understand that if you kill another person in the process of committing a felony, you will be charged with felony murder.

  1. You Acted with Criminal Negligence When Committing the Offense

When charging you with involuntary manslaughter, it should be clear that you acted in criminal negligence. Whether your charges are based on a crime or a lawful act is done unlawfully, this aspect must be apparent before a conviction. It is considered criminal negligence if you act in a way that predisposes other people in danger of significant bodily injury. Also, the prosecutor needs to show that a reasonable individual would have known that the actions were creating a risk to others. If your attorney can prove that your actions were out of inattention or ordinary carelessness, you will not get convicted for this offense. 

  1. You Caused the Death of Another Person

Before you get convicted of involuntary manslaughter in California, the victim of your actions must have succumbed to death. However, death must have been a direct, probable, and natural result of your actions. Also, it should be clear that a reasonable person would know that the actions would result in death.

If you cause the death of another person by failing to perform your duty, you can still be charged under California Penal Code 192b. However, the prosecutor needs to prove the following before charging you with involuntary manslaughter under this basis:

  • You owed a legal duty of care to the alleged victim. A duty of care is the legal responsibility to ensure that you don’t cause injury to another person.
  • You failed to carry out your legal duty towards the individual. You fail to perform your task by acting in a way that predisposes another person to the risk of harm.
  • You acted in criminal negligence, and your actions were a contributing factor to death.

Whether or not you owed a duty of care to another person is a decision that will be made by the jury during the hearing of your criminal case. If you are facing criminal charges for involuntary manslaughter, it is crucial to enlist the help of a competent attorney.

Legal Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter

Under California Penal Code 192(b), involuntary manslaughter is charged as a felony. A conviction for this offense will attract the following legal consequences:

  • Formal probation. If you are sentenced to formal probation in California, you will be required to follow all terms of probation. The rules of probation include regular check-ins with a probation officer and avoiding involvement in other criminal activities.
  • Up to four years in jail
  • Fines not exceeding $ 10,000

If, while committing the offense, you used a deadly weapon against the victim, your conviction will be a strike under the Three-Strikes Law of California. Besides the legal penalties that accompany a conviction for involuntary manslaughter, this offense will trigger a civil lawsuit. The family of the victim can file a lawsuit against you to claim compensation for wrongful death. If you or your loved one is facing involuntary manslaughter charges, you would greatly benefit from legal guidance.

Voluntary Manslaughter – California Penal Code 192(a) 

The law defines voluntary manslaughter as the act of killing another person intentionally with disregard for human life. Also, killing during the heat of an argument will be considered an act of voluntary manslaughter. The aspect that differentiates voluntary manslaughter from murder is the fact that a murder charge requires a malice afterthought.

Killing someone in the heat of an argument means that:

  • You were provoked
  • You acted harshly under the influence of intense emotions resulting from provocation
  • The level of provocation would have caused an average person to act out the way you did

California law does not stipulate the exact criteria to constitute provocation. The jury will determine the reason behind your actions during the hearing. However, it is crucial to understand that if you had time to cool off between the time of provocation and acting, you might get charged with premeditated murder.

Voluntary manslaughter is a serious offense in California. However, it can be used as a plea bargain to murder charges. This is because the offense carries lesser penalties as compared to murder. A conviction for voluntary manslaughter is likely to trigger the following legal consequences:

  • Up to eleven years in California State prison
  • Fines of up to ten thousand dollars
  • A strike to your record under California three strikes law. If you have a prior conviction for a felony, a strike in your history could result in penalty enhancement.
  • Formal probation with a requirement to fulfill all terms of probation 
  • Mandatory counseling
  • losing your right to own or use a firearm

If you get convicted for voluntary manslaughter, your relationships and personal life will be significantly affected. This is due to the immense social stigma that accompanies criminal records for violent crimes.

Legal Defenses Against Manslaughter in California

If you are arrested and charged with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, it does not always mean that you will get convicted. With the help of a competent criminal defense attorney, you can present the following defenses against your case:

False Accusations

You can fight manslaughter charges by claiming that you did not commit the offense, and the prosecution is holding the wrong suspect. Sometimes, an individual who commits an offense may try to accuse you of the crime so they can cover their tracks. In other cases, a witness could get paid so they can identify you as the culprit.

Also, if you are at the wrong place during the occurrence of the act, you can be mistakenly identified as the perpetrator. This could occur when manslaughter takes place in a crowded place or a dark corner. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you are the person who committed the offense, you cannot get convicted for manslaughter.

Lack of Sufficient Evidence

Even though manslaughter cases have a lesser burden of proof as compared to murder charges, there are elements a prosecutor we required to prove. The prosecutor needs to show that you acted in criminal negligence, and the death was a direct consequence of your actions. With the help of a competent criminal defense attorney, you can challenge evidence and witness testaments brought against you.

If the evidence does not show a direct link of your actions to the death of the victim, you may escape a conviction for this offense. Also, creating a doubt in the evidence against you would delay a sentence and give you more time to build a strong defense.

Accident

Sometimes accidents happen without negligence or recklessness. If you accidentally cause the death of another person, you cannot be charged with manslaughter under California Penal Code 192. If you claim that the alleged victim died unexpectedly, you will be challenging the fact that you acted irresponsibly. Also, you will be refuting the fact that you knew your actions could result in the death of another person.

However, it is crucial to understand that an accident defense can only be used if you had no criminal intent to harm the victim. Also, it should be clear that you acted in a way that a reasonable person would, or you were engaging in a lawful act. If you can successfully show the death was accidental, you can have a chance to fight manslaughter charges and evade the harsh penalties.

Self-Defense and Defense of Others

As long as your actions are reasonable under specific circumstances, self-defense or the defense of others could be used as a defense for manslaughter. However, self-defense can only be used as a defense in the following circumstances:

  • You had a reason to believe that you or another person was in danger of suffering severe bodily injury
  • You thought that the amount of force you applied against the victim was necessary under the circumstances
  • The force you used against the alleged victim was reason enough to protect you or another person

If any of your beliefs were unreasonable, it might be challenging to claim self-defense in your case. With the help of a competent attorney, you can successfully present this defense to fight manslaughter charges.     

Insanity

You are considered insane if you cannot understand the nature of your actions and the consequences which accompany these actions. Also, a person who cannot tell right and wrong, you can use insanity as a defense to your manslaughter charges. In California, an individual who is not in their right mind cannot be held criminally liable for an offense.

Although insanity is a valid defense for manslaughter charges, it is essential to consult a criminal defense attorney before relying on this defense. This is because some evidence may be required to prove this fact.

Manslaughter as a Defense to Murder Charges

The difference between murder and manslaughter charges in California is the fact that an intent to kill is required for you to get convicted for murder. Also, a conviction for California murder attracts more severe legal penalties as compared to manslaughter. If you are facing murder charges, you can present defenses in an attempt to get your charges reduced to manslaughter.

By proving that you acted in the heat of passion or from emotions arising in an argument, you can use voluntary manslaughter as a plea bargain for murder charges. However, the decision to reduce your murder charges to voluntary manslaughter is made by the jury. If you are hoping to get a manslaughter plea bargain, it is crucial to have competent legal guidance.

Offenses Related to Manslaughter

In California, there is an offense that is related to manslaughter. Some of these charges could be charged alongside or instead of manslaughter. Manslaughter related crimes include:

Murder

Under California Penal Code 187(a), you murder by unlawfully causing the death of another individual with a malice afterthought. For this offense, a prosecutor needs to prove a malice afterthought before you get convicted. Malice afterthought could either result from hatred or ill will against another person. Also, acting with disregard for safety is considered malice afterthought.

In California, murder can be charged as either first-degree, second-degree, or capital murder, depending on the circumstances of your case and the reason behind the offense. Also, your criminal history and the number of victims could impact the outcome of your case. Murder is a serious offense, and the penalties vary depending on the category of crime with which you are charged.

A conviction for first-degree murder will attract a prison sentence of up to twenty-five years. However, this penalty can be enhanced if the homicide is charged as a hate crime. A second-degree murder conviction is punishable with fifteen years in prison. The sentence for this offense could be increased to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if you have a prior conviction for murder. Also, when a firearm or deadly weapon is used to commit a crime, you will receive harsh penalties.

Both murder and manslaughter involve unlawful killing. The difference between the two is that manslaughter does not require implied malice. If you are facing murder charges, you can fight to get these charges reduced to voluntary manslaughter, which is a lesser offense. However, this will be effective if you can prove that there was a certain level of provocation in the heat of passion.

Attempted Murder

You will be arrested and charged with attempted murder if you take the right step at killing another person or a fetus. Before you get convicted for this offense, it should be clear that you would have completed the murder if an external factor did not interrupt. In California, attempted murder is charged as a felony, and a conviction attracts the following penalties:

  • Up to fifteen years imprisonment for a first degree attempted murder
  • Five, seven or nine years in prison for a second-degree offense
  • Fines not exceeding $10,000
  • Victim restitution where you are required to compensate the victim or their families
  • You may lose your right to own or use a firearm.

In addition to the above legal consequences, a conviction for attempted murder results in a strike under California’s Three-Strike Law. If you are faced with attempted murder charges, your charges could be reduced to attempted voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Under California Penal Code 192(c), vehicular manslaughter is defined as the unlawful killing of another person while operating a motor vehicle. Vehicular manslaughter could be a result of gross negligence. For this offense, gross negligence is acting in a way that puts another person at risk of injury.

You can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter for acting in ordinary negligence, which is reasonable care to prevent causing injuries on other people. If you committed the offense of vehicular manslaughter for financial gain, you are likely to face severe legal penalties. However, it is crucial to understand that death has to occur for you to be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Before you are convicted, the prosecutor needs to prove the following elements:

  • You were driving a vehicle, and while doing so, you committed an offense
  • The act you committed should have been dangerous to human life under the given circumstances 
  • You acted either in gross or ordinary negligence
  • Your actions resulted in the death of another party

If you get convicted for vehicular manslaughter in California, the penalties you are subjected to will depend on the category of offense for which you are accused. Also, your criminal history will play a significant role in sentencing.

Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is a wobbler. A conviction for a misdemeanor will result in the following legal consequences:

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • A jail sentence of up to one year
  • Fines not exceeding $1,000

On the other hand, the potential penalties for a felony conviction include:

  • Formal probation
  • Imprisonment of up to six years
  • Fines of up to $10,000

After a conviction for vehicular manslaughter, the Department of Motor Vehicle will attempt to suspend your driver’s license. Therefore, it is crucial to navigate these charges with guidance from a competent criminal defense attorney.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is charged under California Penal Code 191.5(b). The prosecutor must prove the following elements of crime before you are convicted for this offense:

  • You were operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Under California Dui law, you are considered under the control if your blood alcohol content exceeds 0.08% for adults and 0.01% for underage drivers.
  • While doing this, you committed a misdemeanor offense that might have resulted in the death
  • You acted in ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence is a failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to another person.
  • Death of another person occurred as a result of your actions. Death must be a consequence of your actions for you to be convicted for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence is a wobbler. This offense could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on your criminal history and circumstances of your case. When charged as a felony, you will face up to four years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Also, losing your driving privileges may be a possibility if you are convicted for this offense 

On the other hand, a misdemeanor conviction will attract a jail sentence of up to one year and $1,000 in fines. If you or your loved one is charged with vehicular manslaughter, it would be wise to enlist competent legal representation.

Fight Manslaughter Charges with Help From a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you kill another person while committing an inherently dangerous act, you will be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Also, you can get charged with voluntary manslaughter if you caused the death of another person while in the heat of an argument. Getting arrested and charged with manslaughter can be quite devastating. This is because of the severe consequences that accompany a conviction for this offense. Fortunately, an arrest does not always result in a sentence. There is a defense you can present against your case in an attempt to avoid a conviction. If you or your loved one is facing manslaughter charges, you will require help from Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. Contact us today at 714-740-7848 to discuss more details of your case.