Voluntary vs Involuntary Manslaughter

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The Right California Lawyers for Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter

There is an important difference between voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. The term involuntary manslaughter is used to refer to the unintentional killing of a person. It might result from criminal negligence, recklessness, or misdemeanor.

The person who commits involuntary manslaughter does not want the victim to die. For example, a person who drives under the influence of alcohol may hit and kill a pedestrian, although killing him was not his intention.

Additionally, crimes like theft and burglary can result in involuntary manslaughter charges. For instance, if a thief walks into a store to rob and not to kill, but the store owner suffers a heart attack and dies from shock, the thief could be charged with involuntary manslaughter in addition to robbery.

Elements that constitute the offense

A person can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if the following three criteria are met.

  • The defendant committed an act that resulted in the death of a person.
  • The defendant knew that his conduct might endanger lives.
  • The act was inherently dangerous or was done with a total lack of concern for human life.

Voluntary Manslaughter: Definition

The term voluntary manslaughter is used to refer to intentional killing. However, in involuntary killing, the person who commits the crime has no prior intention to kill. The murder happens in the ‘heat of passion’. The situations which lead to the crime are of the kind which would cause a person of rational judgment to become mentally or emotionally disturbed. In the absence of such causes, the killing could be regarded as first or second degree murder. Among the various kinds of homicides, this crime falls between murder, which is a crime committed with malice aforethought, and the excusable and justified taking of life committed in self-defense. The latter doesn’t constitute a crime.

Voluntary manslaughter is different than involuntary manslaughter and its definition depends upon the state in which the crime occurs. On the other hand, involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person dies due to the recklessness or irresponsibility of the defendant.

What Are Examples of Voluntary Manslaughter?

Heat of Passion: definition

According to Federal law, voluntary manslaughter is the illegal killing of a person without malicious intent. It happens in the ‘heat of passion’. This term is used to refer to an uncontrollable emotion that any reasonable person may experience under similar circumstances. In the case of first degree murder, the idea of malicious intent or premeditation is present, but it is absent in the case of voluntary manslaughter. The presence of one negates the other.

A crime of passion could look like when a husband and wife argue because the wife cheated. The argument becomes so heated that the husband pushes the wife, who then hits her head and dies. In this type of scenario, the husband’s crime is reduced from murder to manslaughter. The voluntary manslaughter could have been caused by adequate provocation. 

Voluntary manslaughter is sometimes also defined as an act of killing that is committed with the wrong notion that the killing is justified. For example, a person who kills another in self-defense may be charged with voluntary manslaughter if he was the original attacker in the situation.

Another instance would be a bar fight where one person defends themselves with their fists, resulting in another’s death. This can be seen as imperfect self-defense where the person believed they were in immediate danger of injury and reacted. 

The Best Defense for Manslaughter Charges

The outcome of any court rulings depends on various factors such as the evidence presented, the attorney’s case presentations, witnesses, and jury trials. However, the most crucial person between the charged victim and the judge ruling is the defense lawyer. Therefore, it’s very important to ensure that you hire the best defense lawyers to present your case in court.

Since 1987, we have dedicated our legal practice to preserving and defending our client’s rights charged with violation of criminal offenses. Our legal defense team possesses over 70 years of combined experience in criminal court proceedings, which makes us outstanding when it comes to handling client cases charged with manslaughter and other criminal charges.

Involuntary Manslaughter

In the case of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors don’t have to prove intent or deliberation on the part of the defendant. That’s because, by definition, someone who commits involuntary manslaughter wasn’t acting with malice. The unlawful killing wasn’t intended; it was a consequence of the defendant’s actions.

However, the prosecutors do have to prove reckless behavior and that the defendant should have known that their actions would cause bodily harm and death to another. Because of this, there are legitimate defense strategies for an involuntary manslaughter charge.

What Are the Defenses for Involuntary Manslaughter?

Self-defense can be a common defense, as someone could reasonably claim to be defending from imminent death if a weapon were present. Other common defenses can include insufficient evidence, where unreliable witness testimony can lead to the case being dismissed, and false accusations, where prosecutors might be charging the wrong person.

The final defense is less common, as it’s difficult for a genuine accident to cause involuntary manslaughter. Most cases of severe bodily harm involve some level of criminal negligence, such as a DUI. But an accident defense is possible in rare cases, such as a tree branch falling on someone who wandered under a tree removal specialist.

Having the right defense attorney can help you decide the best defense strategy for your situation. If you’ve been charged with this criminal act, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Dealing with manslaughter charges in California

Being charged with any criminal offense, especially something like manslaughter, can be traumatic because you face potentially life-altering uncertainties. It’s essential you look for an experienced defense attorney who can defend you on your negligent manslaughter criminal charges, and that is where we come in.

Sitkoff & Hanrahan, LLP, is a well-recognized law firm by the California Board of Legal Specialization. With our extensive experience in different criminal law areas, from unlawful possession of firearms to white-collar crimes and assault and battery, we’ve been recognized as the top criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles and California.

At Sitkoff & Hanrahan, LLP, we have represented our clients in different cases involving manslaughter, such as drug charges, domestic violence, and theft. These crimes include anything from DUI drug charges to violence triggered by a sudden quarrel or adequate provocation that results in death.

If you have been charged with manslaughter in California, the experienced criminal lawyers at Sitkoff & Hanrahan, LLP can evaluate your case and options. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 888-579-4844.

Stephen Sitkoff

Stephen Sitkoff

Partner and Criminal Defense Attorney

Stephen Sitkoff is a partner at Sitkoff & Hanrahan who started his legal career as a deputy district attorney more than 30 years ago prosecuting cases throughout the LA criminal court system in Southern California.
Eugene Hanrahan@2x

Eugene Hanrahan

Partner and Criminal Defense Attorney

Eugene Hanrahan is both a former federal and county prosecutor and partner at Sitkoff & Hanrahan, LLP with two decades of criminal law experience. Mr. Hanrahan’s criminal defense expertise ranges from misdemeanors to serious, complex felony cases.
James Kim

James Kim

Senior Case Analyst

James possesses over a decade of legal experience and serves as the firm’s senior case analyst handling the initial calls from prospective clients.