Certain circumstances can drive an individual to commit murder. The vast majority of such cases are classified as manslaughter rather than murder. These charges carry serious consequences and can damage your life and reputation if the courts prosecute and find you guilty.
If you've been charged with murder, you'll need a professional lawyer to help you through the legal system and get your case dropped or reduced. We at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney have successfully defended many clients in Los Angeles, California who have been charged with this offense and can do the same for you.
An Overview of Voluntary Manslaughter Under California Law
California's voluntary manslaughter is covered under PC 192a. According to this section, voluntary manslaughter happens when an offender purposefully kills another individual or engages in conscious disregard for a person's life.
Difference Between California Murder and Manslaughter
The California courts can charge you with either voluntary manslaughter or murder. The distinction between the two crimes is the malicious afterthought in murder.
Malicious afterthought could be defined as the necessary mental state that a perpetrator must have to murder someone. Therefore, the offender must have an intention of killing, and the killing is how the action is manifested.
Murders, like manslaughters, show a willful disregard for people's lives through the actions committed. Therefore, you could act without intending to kill and still be accused of murder charges since you deliberately disregarded a person's life.
Getting into a sudden argument or being in the heat of passion is one of the major reasons for voluntary manslaughter. If you kill a person in such a situation, it means that:
- The trigger would cause an ordinary person to react impulsively and without careful consideration, indicating that the acts were motivated by passion instead of judgment
- You reacted hastily in response to the provocation because you were overwhelmed by strong emotions that clouded your capacity to think clearly
- Somebody triggered you
"Heat of passion" as defined in PC 192(a) relates to any strong feelings that could cause someone to react out of emotions. However, if the defendant had enough time to "cool off" or think about his or her actions (between the trigger and reaction time), then the outcome is ruled as murder instead of manslaughter.
Furthermore, the provocation should have resulted in or been closely related to the action of killing someone else. If the accused is unable to show that the crime was committed due to the "heat of passion," then he or she cannot connect the offense to the trigger.
Third, the act should have occurred within a reasonable period after the trigger, implying that there was no time to stay calm. For voluntary manslaughter to happen, there shouldn't be a considerable period between the incidents in which a sane individual would have regained consciousness of the act they're about to perpetrate.
California regulations have not established the level of provocation required to cause an ordinary individual to respond irrationally.
The Distinction Between Involuntary and Voluntary Manslaughter
The distinction between involuntary and voluntary manslaughter is based on intention. Voluntary killing usually involves intentional killing that takes place in response to a provocation. Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, takes place when the perpetrator has no intention of harming anyone yet kills the person due to negligence or recklessness.
Difference Between Voluntary and Vehicular Manslaughter
California law defines vehicular manslaughter as an illegal killing that takes place under California PC 192c. It is described as follows:
- You engaged in illegal activity while operating a vehicle, while it was not a felony, and your reckless behavior resulted in the loss of life of another person.
- You caused the death of another person by operating a vehicle while engaged in an unlawful act that didn't count as a felony but not due to gross negligence.
- You willfully caused a car accident or collision to profit financially, and the circumstance may have resulted in the demise or loss of life of another individual.
Elements of Voluntary Manslaughter
Engaging a criminal lawyer should be the first move toward attaining the best possible outcome in a voluntary manslaughter case. Your defense attorney bears the burden of proof to defend you from the potential consequences of California voluntary manslaughter.
Voluntary manslaughter includes the following elements:
1. Another Person's Death
To be charged with manslaughter, the defendant's actions must lead to the loss of life of another individual. Voluntary manslaughter is defined as the intentional act of killing another individual during a dispute or quarrel with malice intended toward the person. Any injury case involving the use of a lethal weapon that doesn't lead to immediate death would not be considered a voluntary manslaughter offense. However, under California law, the prosecution could file other counts for the crime, like attempted murder.
2. There Were Illegal Plots to Commit the Offense
The prosecution will rely on security footage and eyewitness testimony to piece together the events that led up to the murder. If the perpetrator's acts during the argument or moment of rage showed contempt for human life, it'll be clear that the defendant acted with unlawful intentions.
If the offender threatens the other individual with a lethal weapon during a disagreement or in the heat of passion, it's clear that the accused has illegal motives to kill. Eventually, he/she kills the victim with the weapon. Using a lethal weapon during a disagreement demonstrates a disregard for the victim's life, which is sufficient proof to find the accused guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
3. There Is No Legal Justification or Excuse for the Defendant's Actions
The majority of voluntary manslaughter cases occur during quarrels or disputes in the "heat of passion." In relationships, disputes are common. During conflicts and disputes, feelings of love or hatred could become uncontrollable, causing people to engage in regrettable activities.
Penalties for California Voluntary Manslaughter
Anyone found guilty of California voluntary manslaughter faces a sentence of 3, 6, or 11 years in prison. This differs from murder under California PC 187, which carries a sentence of fifteen years to life in jail, with a possible option of execution.
Voluntary manslaughter can result in other fines and penalties. These include:
- The potential for getting a strike on your record under California's Three-Strike Law.
- Hefty fines that could amount to as high as $10,000.
- Counseling services.
- Losing the right to carry or possess a firearm under California PC 29800.
- Community or labor services.
- Any other condition that the court reasonably considers appropriate given the facts of the case.
Community Service in a California Voluntary Manslaughter Case
This type of punishment aims to benefit the society that has been harmed by the accused's wrongdoing. Judges often impose community service in place of probation, fines, or jail time.
If you're found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, you should spend a certain amount of time behind bars and complete the remainder of the sentence doing community service. For a magistrate to mandate community service in the case of voluntary manslaughter, the following factors must be considered:
- Whether the defendant has previous criminal convictions or not
- Whether you'll pose a threat to the community once released
- Whether you're capable of adhering to the community service rules and regulations.
- Restitution for those who have been harmed
In determining what conditions to enforce in your community service, the court has a lot of discretion in your case. One of the popular conditions that the court can impose on a defendant includes participating in CAL-TRANS works.
Keep in mind that a conviction to do community service does not excuse you from some of the obligations issued to you. This could result in your jail term being reinstated or, worse, you being charged for perverting the course of justice or receiving harsher penalties. Therefore, it's important to seek legal advice to confirm that the terms issued are within your means.
Counseling Services in a Voluntary Manslaughter Case
If the court is persuaded that your conduct was driven by your mental health, you would be ordered to seek counseling. Counseling is also mandated for individuals who are regarded to be at risk of self-harm or recidivism.
The effectiveness of the treatment depends on the participant's level of commitment, the type of treatment, and other relevant factors.
Mandatory Counselling Services
Most of the time, the court will order counseling sessions even if the perpetrator's attorney does not request one. In such cases, the accused is subjected to therapy for a specific period, which comprises an assessment by an accredited health expert.
Additionally, the offender will be required to seek treatment from a specified medical center, where the courts reasonably assume that it will meet their expectations. Mandatory treatment services include the following:
- Mandatory emergency mental health services
- Treatment instead of incarceration
- Courts for drugs and mental health
Your lawyer should be able to use appropriate legal defenses to assist in reducing or dropping the allegations. There are numerous legal arguments that a lawyer can use. However, only a few apply to the issue at hand.
Let's take a look at some of the legal arguments that can be used in voluntary manslaughter cases.
The best legal strategy in any situation is to prove your innocence of the crime. To convict you of the offense, the prosecution must demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that you perpetrated the crime in question. Therefore, if the defendant pleads innocent to the allegations and the prosecution fails to show that the accused perpetrated the offense, you're not bound to face any charges.
Note that you shouldn't use this as an excuse to sabotage the investigation to demonstrate your innocence. Such a step would result in separate charges or severe consequences.
In California, an accused person has the right to use force in self-defense if it is required to protect themselves or someone else from:
- Suffering serious bodily harm
- Being robbed, injured, or exposed to any other heinous crime
- Being killed
A flawed defense is comparable to or almost identical to self-defense, with a few exceptions. In this situation, you could have:
- Legitimately thought to be at immediate risk of death or serious injury
- You had a good reason to assume that lethal force was imminent and that you needed to protect yourself, and
- At least one of the aforementioned views was illogical
It would be permissible to use this as a legal defense in court concerning a case involving voluntary manslaughter cases mentioned above if you seized a handgun and began firing at them. In this situation, the mob's actions indicate that they intended to kill you, which is why self-defense was necessary.
Insanity could be used as a legitimate legal argument if you:
- Don't comprehend the sort of acts that you perpetrated
- Cannot tell right from wrong
The M'Naghten Rule is used in California to determine whether or not someone is insane. As a result, to employ this rule successfully throughout your criminal proceeding, your counsel should be familiarized with it.
Offenders can not be charged with voluntary manslaughter when they kill somebody by accident. Consequently, if the event happened accidentally, you may use that fact to demonstrate your innocence. An attorney can pursue this defense if:
- You had no malicious intent to cause harm.
- You didn't act carelessly when the accident was happening.
- You were participating in legal acts when the accidental killing happened
No form of crime should ever be justified by intoxication. However, if you can convince the judge that your impairment was unintentional, it may be favorable for your legal argument.
This could happen when someone drugs you. It could be difficult to persuade the court to withdraw your allegations based on this kind of argument. However, it is worth taking the chance based on how you portray it.
A plausible way to demonstrate to the court that you are innocent is through an alibi. This could happen when someone attempts to accuse you of homicide due to your resemblance to the real offender.
The easiest way of making this type of argument credible is to provide sufficient evidence of your whereabouts when the event was taking place. You can present evidence to support your claims using tools like surveillance footage, receipts, call logs, and other tools that can verify your whereabouts.
Coercion happens when one person uses force to make another commit an offense. Coercion is frequently initiated by someone who has control over the accused, for example, law enforcement authorities.
For instance, someone could threaten to harm your family or friends if you don't fabricate a voluntary homicide. Thus, you are forced to comply with the demands to safeguard your dear ones as a result.
Compared to murder, voluntary manslaughter carries a lighter charge. As a result, you can utilize the charges to ask for less severe punishment for your conviction and get a much shorter term.
California Crimes Related to Voluntary Manslaughter
In California, voluntary manslaughter is related to several offenses. These offenses also include the wrongful killing of someone else. A few of these crimes are:
Murder Under Penal Code 187
Voluntary manslaughter and murder are closely related crimes. The major distinction between them would be that manslaughter isn't considered murder until it is done voluntarily, whereas murder involves malice, deliberate, or wanton contempt of human life.
The penalty for murder varies based on if the act was first-degree, second-degree, or capital murder. The accused risks a 25-year to life sentence in California state jail for first-degree murder. If the crime was motivated by hatred, the term could be life in prison.
The defendant might receive the death penalty or perhaps a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole when the allegations are for capital murder. There are two methods of execution available for the death penalty. Being gassed to death or being injected with a lethal intravenous injection.
If the defendant is found guilty of a second-degree crime, they might spend fifteen years to the rest of their lives in state prison. A couple of factors could lead to increased prison time.
Involuntary Manslaughter Under PC 192(b)
Involuntary manslaughter is defined under PC 192(b) as the accidental killing of another person while committing a crime that isn't naturally dangerous or whilst performing a legal activity that could result in loss of life. The crucial element of involuntary manslaughter is that the defendant did not have the intention to kill anyone.
California law classifies involuntary manslaughter as a felony crime. It carries a maximum hefty fine of no more than $10,000 as well as potential imprisonment terms of 2, 3, or 4 years behind bars. According to California's Three-Strike Law, you could receive a strike conviction if you accidentally kill a person with a gun or any other lethal weapon and are found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
DUI Murder (PC 187)
According to California law, DUI murder constitutes second-degree murder, often known as Watson murder. This type of conviction emerges when a defendant has a prior DUI conviction and runs over somebody while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Also, the counts could be elevated to DUI murder if the accused underwent a DUI school program for the previous crime or was made aware of Watson's warning about the prior conviction. If convicted of DUI murder, you could face the following penalties:
- A fifteen-year sentence in a California prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
- An additional "strike" under California's Three-Strike Law
Vehicular Manslaughter (PC 192c)
According to California PC 192c, vehicular manslaughter occurs when someone drives a vehicle and causes the death of another person by engaging in either a legal action that has the potential to cause loss of life or illegal action that's not considered a felony crime. If you killed somebody while committing a felony, the court would convict you of murder under California's felony-murder law.
The consequences that are applicable in this case are determined by the type of crime committed. If you perpetrated it with extreme negligence, the lawsuit will be termed as a wobbler. The term means that the crime could be either charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. This is determined by the circumstances surrounding the crime as well as your criminal record.
If you're convicted of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, the following penalties apply:
- Summary or misdemeanor probation
- Serving a maximum sentence of one year in county jail
- Hefty fines of no more than $1,000
If you're found guilty of felony vehicular manslaughter with extreme carelessness, the following punishments apply:
- Felony or formal probation
- Prison sentences of 2 years, 4 years, or 6 years
- A $10,000 maximum fine
When charged with simple vehicular manslaughter, the courts consider it a misdemeanor offense. The following consequences include:
- Misdemeanor probation
- Maximum sentence of one year in jail
- Hefty fines of no more than $1,000
Finally, if a defendant perpetrated voluntary manslaughter to gain financially, the potential consequences include a $10,000 fine and 4 years, 6 years, or 10 years behind bars.
Vehicle Manslaughter While Intoxicated, (PC 191.5)
Under PC 191.5a, vehicular manslaughter while inebriated occurs when an individual perpetrates both DUI and murders another person. According to PC 191.5(a), the DUI should be separated from the grossly negligent act to render the allegations a misdemeanor, an infraction, or a legal act that resulted in another person's death.
If this is the case, potential penalties include:
- Felony or formal probation
- Incarceration in prison for 4, 6, or 10 years
- A hefty fine of no more than $10,000
If you are found guilty of the following offenses, the court could impose harsher penalties:
- Vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated, both ordinary and gross
- Vehicular manslaughter while boating.
- California VC 23152 DUI
- VC 23153 DUI that causes injuries
If you have any of the aforementioned prior convictions, you could face a sentence of 15 years behind bars for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
When faced with a voluntary manslaughter case, you may be unsure of how to proceed. That's why we're here to assess the facts surrounding your case and identify potential defenses. If you're charged with voluntary manslaughter, you can contact the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney in Los Angeles, CA. Our skilled attorneys can advise you on your defense strategies and aggressively advocate for your charges to be dropped. If you're looking for help with establishing your innocence or getting the allegations against you dropped, call us at 424-333-0943.