California Penal Code Section 192 (a) defines voluntary manslaughter as the "unlawful killing of a human being without malice upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion." The sudden quarrel or heat of passion can occur if you were provoked and then you acted rashly under the influence of your emotions. This therefore means that you didn’t allow for clear reasoning but instead reacted emotionally rather than logically. In cases of voluntary manslaughter, the provocation must be influential to the extent that it has to be believable that any average person would have acted in the same way given the same provocation. Heat of passion in this case means any intense emotion that makes an individual to act impulsively with no time to cool off and regain the ability to think rationally. Charges for this crime are not based on the malicious intent to kill another person. A good example of voluntary manslaughter as a result of heat of passion is a situation where a man finds his wife with another man in their matrimonial bed and kills the other man or his wife in an act of rage.
Legal Defenses to Penal Code 192 (a) Voluntary Manslaughter
There are several things that you must prove in order to defend yourself from a voluntary manslaughter charge. This is why it's important to hire a skilled Long Beach criminal defense lawyer who can work with you to develop a strong defense that can help reduce or dismiss the charges against you. Some of the legal defenses that our Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys can use include:
Self-defense or defense of others
Killing another person in order to protect yourself or another person from being killed, suffering great bodily injury, being raped, maimed, or from being a victim of any other form of forcible and atrocious crime is justifiable. This is as per California’s self-defense laws; Penal Code Section 198.5 These laws permit individuals to take whatever steps necessary to protect against harm. Enough evidence must be provided in order to support a self-defense legal defense. For this defense to be applicable in your case, there are different elements that you must meet and these include:
- You reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of being killed or seriously injured
- You reasonably believed that it was necessary to use immediate force to prevent that danger
- You used force whose intensity was necessary to defend against that danger
In this case therefore, the prosecutor is the one that bears the burden of proof since he/she must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that self-defense does not apply.
Another defense that can see you get a verdict of not guilty is by reason of insanity. Under California law, you cannot be found guilty of a crime if you were legally insane when you committed it. This could be as a result of a mental illness that made you to be in a situation where you either:
- Didn’t understand the nature of the criminal act
- Couldn’t distinguish between right and wrong
You can plead not guilty at your arraignment hearing by reason of insanity. If you manage to convince your criminal jury trial, then you will be committed to a mental hospital instead of being sent to prison.
You are not guilty of voluntary manslaughter if you accidentally kill someone. However, this legal defense only works if you had no criminal intent to do harm, weren’t acting negligent at the time of accident, or you were otherwise engaged in lawful activities at the time of the accidental killing.
Penalties, Punishments and Sentencing
Voluntary manslaughter is a felony under California Penal Code Section 192(a). If convicted for this crime, you face a state prison sentence of three, six or 11 years. This is unlike murder that comes with a minimum of 15 years to life imprisonment and even in some instances execution. Voluntary manslaughter could also result in a number of punishment and penalties including:
- A strike on your record pursuant to California’ three strikes law. This has the potential to increase your penalties if you have been convicted of a felony before
- The loss of the right to possess a firearm
- A maximum of $10,000 fine
- Counselling services
- Community service or labor
If you are charged with voluntary manslaughter, it is important to have an experienced attorney from Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys who can fight to have the charges dismissed or reduced.
Involuntary manslaughter is defined under California Penal Code 192 (b) and occurs when one person kills another unintentionally. The prosecution must prove that:
You committed a crime that is not an inherently dangerous felony
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when you do something wrong and this could either be:
- A law act that is done in an unlawful manner
- A felony that is not considered inherently dangerous
- A California infraction- low level crime
- A California misdemeanor
However, if you kill another person in the process of committing a felony that’s considered to be inherently dangerous, you will be charged with murder instead of involuntary manslaughter.
You committed a lawful act without due caution or with criminal negligence
The prosecution must be able to prove that you acted without due action or with criminal negligence regardless of whether your charges are based on underlying lawful act or underlying crime. Criminal negligence should not be confused to mean just ordinary inattention, mistake in judgement or carelessness. It is more than that and occurs when an individual acts in a reckless way that poses high risk of great bodily injury or death. It's also presumed that any reasonable person would have known that such a behavior would create such a risk.
Your actions caused another person’s death
If the death of the other person was direct, natural, and probable, that’s when your act is considered to have been the cause. This therefore implies that the death would not have occurred were it not for your act and as a reasonable person, you should have known that the act was likely to cause death.
Involuntary manslaughter in California does not require intent to kill another person. Due to the unintentional nature of this crime, it's considered to be a lesser charge than voluntary manslaughter or murder. Involuntary manslaughter doesn’t include death that involve a car since they are charged under vehicular manslaughter laws.
Possible Defenses to Involuntary Manslaughter Charges
When faced with Penal Code 192(b) charges, a skilled attorney can present on your behalf a variety of legal defenses by arguing that:
- The death was an accident
- You acted in self-defense or the defense of another
- You were falsely accused
- There is insufficient evidence to support your conviction
Retain an experienced attorney who will work to develop a strong defense strategy and present an aggressive defense.
Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is always a felony in the state of California even though it's viewed as a lesser offense when compared to voluntary manslaughter. It's not categorized as a “serious” or “violent” felony. Under California Penal Code Section 192(b), a conviction for involuntary manslaughter is punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in a county jail. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be given a felony probation which involves serving your sentence under the mandatory supervision of a probation officer. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be applicable. Defendants can face very large civil judgements if sued by the family of the victim.
Penal Code 192(c) Vehicular Manslaughter occurs when a driver, pedestrian, or passenger dies of injuries related to a car accident that occurred as a result of the negligent conduct of the defendant. Examples of negligent conduct include texting or using a cell phone while driving, grooming or speeding. However, if it's alleged that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you killed someone, then you'd be charged with Penal Code 191.5(a) PC gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Vehicular manslaughter can be divided into different forms and these include:
- Ordinary vehicular manslaughter- only requires ordinary negligence which implies that you failed to act with reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm to another person
- Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence- caused the death of another person due to gross negligence
- Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain- for instance by initiating a collision to make a false insurance claim and the collision ends up causing death
In order to be convicted of vehicular manslaughter, the prosecution must be able to prove that:
- You committed a misdemeanor, infraction or a lawful act in a lawful manner while driving
- Under the circumstances, the act was dangerous to human life
- You committed the act with ordinary negligence
- The act caused the death of another person
Punishment for Vehicular Manslaughter
Vehicular manslaughter can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony and this depends on prior criminal history and the circumstances of your case. The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction can be up to one year in county jail, misdemeanor probation or a fine of up to $1,000. A felony conviction comes with two, four, or six years in a state prison, felony probation or a fine of up to $10,000. The conviction also results in a driver’s license suspension.
Punishment for Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
This crime is defined under Penal Code 191.5(a) and is always a felony with severe criminal consequences. A conviction comes with an imprisonment of four, six, or 10 years in state prison. You also receive a felony strike offense if this is a second or third strike and this implies that you may end up getting a mandatory minimum of up to 25 years in prison
Fighting Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
To defend yourself against these charges, you and your criminal defense lawyer may argue that:
- You did not act with negligence or gross negligence
- Your negligence didn't cause the victim's death
- you encountered an emergency and acted reasonably
- You weren't actually intoxicated at the time of the accident
Manslaughter charges can be severe and potentially life changing. If you or a loved one is facing a manslaughter charge, it's crucial that you speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Long Beach criminal Defense Attorneys, our attorneys are highly experienced in handling manslaughter cases in the greater Long Beach area. We'll work with you to review the facts of your case and give you the best representation for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today at (562) 308-7807 or fill our online form and we’ll be there when you need us.