Defending Against Manslaughter Charges in the State of California

In California, there are three different types of manslaughter: involuntary, voluntary, and vehicular. If you have been charged with any of the three crimes, it is imperative that you rely on a skilled California criminal defense attorney to mount the strongest possible defense.  Conviction for manslaughter comes with serious penalties. The purpose of this article is to differentiate between the three types of manslaughter charges in the state of California.

Involuntary Manslaughter Involves an Unintentional Killing

In California, involuntary manslaughter is the appropriate charge when one person kills another unintentionally. Specifically, the unintentional killing occurs during the commission of a separate crime that, while unlawful, is not considered an inherently dangerous California felony, or during the commission of an otherwise lawful act that is capable of producing death in the absence of adequate caution. Importantly, and unlike murder, involuntary manslaughter does not require the element of “malice aforethought,” a broad category that includes intent to kill.  Involuntary manslaughter is a felony under California law, and is punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Voluntary Manslaughter is a Crime of Passion

Voluntary manslaughter is actually quite different from involuntary manslaughter. It is sometimes referred to as a “heat of passion” crime – that type that occurs as the result of walking in on one’s spouse in bed with another committing adultery. In legal language, voluntary manslaughter is the killing of another in the heat of passion, in circumstances that would cause an ordinary person to become inflamed, and without time to “cool off.”  In other words, voluntary manslaughter – a lesser charge to murder – requires what the law deems “adequate provocation. Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 11 years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, a “strike” with regard to the state’s Three Strikes law, and much more.

Vehicular Manslaughter is Rooted in Negligence Law

The third type of manslaughter charge in California is vehicular manslaughter. This charge is proper if, while driving a vehicle, you commit an act that, while unlawful, is not classified as a felony, commit a lawful act that may cause death, act with either ordinary negligence or gross negligence, and in doing so cause someone to be killed. Negligence, whether ordinary or gross in nature, is the breach of a duty owed to another person that results in damages. With regard to vehicular manslaughter, the duty is that of safe driving, and the damages are that of death. In California, vehicular manslaughter is punishable by up to six years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and more.

What to Do if You Have Been Charged With Manslaughter in California

If you have been charged with any of the three types of manslaughter, it is critical that you contact a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney to mount the strongest possible defense of the charges against you.