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What Is Voluntary Manslaughter?

Posted by Martens & Brusseau | Oct 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

Intentionally killing another human being is inarguably one of the worst crimes you can commit. Murderers are considered cold-blooded for the atrocity they committed; however those who intentionally kill another person are not always bad people. Sometimes, they are simply reacting to an emotionally intense situation, much in the same way other reasonable people would under like circumstances. Many people assume the unlawful killing of another human being is always charged as murder. In actuality, a murder charge is only applicable when the killing was done with malice aforethought, in other words, premeditated. In absence of malice aforethought, the charge of voluntary manslaughter is more appropriate. Without premeditation and malicious intent, killing another human being may be considered manslaughter.

There are three types of manslaughter charges under California Penal Code § 192(a): vehicular, voluntary, and involuntary. Involuntary manslaughter applies in cases, as the name suggests, when the killing was not intentional. Voluntary manslaughter, on the other hand, applies in cases where the killing was indeed intentional, but when it was in response to significant and adequate provocation or when it was committed in the heat of passion. It is important to point out here that killing in response to provocation and killing in response to your life being threatened are not the same thing in the eyes of the law. If you can prove you were acting in self-defense to a threat of imminent death, you may not face manslaughter charges, as long as you did not use unreasonable force. While the "heat of passion" sounds more like a subjective experience than an element to a criminal case, killing in the heat of passion leaves the defendant slightly less culpable for the killing and thus the defendant does not face the same punishments as they would if they committed murder. Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by three, six, or eleven years in a state prison. In order to be charged with voluntary manslaughter, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you had intent to kill but that the killing was done as a response to a provocative circumstance. For example, if you killed your spouse or partner in response to learning they were unfaithful, you would be charged with voluntary manslaughter and not murder. This is an important difference. If you were found guilty of murder in the second degree, you would face 15 years in prison and if you were found guilty of murder in the first degree, you will face 25 years to life or the death penalty. While the criminal act is essentially the same in both cases, the circumstances of the crime, mainly the presence or absence of malicious intent, can mean a huge difference in how long you are incarcerated.

If you are facing voluntary manslaughter or murder charges, it is imperative you speak with a California criminal defense attorney immediately. Frequently, a voluntary manslaughter charge may come as a result of a murder charge being reduced. If you are facing murder charges, a skilled attorney may be able to help secure you a lesser sentence. Likewise, if the killing was an accident and you had no intent to kill the victim, you may not have to face voluntary manslaughter charges. However in this case, you may be charged with involuntary manslaughter. While still a manslaughter charge, involuntary manslaughter is punishable by two, four, or six years in a state prison. If you feel you did not commit voluntary manslaughter, but rather involuntary manslaughter, speak with an attorney about your rights. It is important to note that voluntary manslaughter, although not technically murder, is nevertheless considered a serious felony and one that will result in a strike on your criminal record. Under California's "three strikes" law, those with a previous strike on their record will face harsher punishments if they are convicted of a serious felony again. For a second serious felony conviction, the defendant will face twice the prison sentence he or she would normally face for that particular crime. For example, if someone committed a crime typically punishable by ten years in a state prison, and that person had a prior "strike" on their record, they would face twenty years in a state prison. A third strike, if the felony is serious or violent, will result in a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life. Keep the three strikes law in mind when facing serious felony charges, such as voluntary manslaughter. Obtaining experienced criminal defense counsel will give you the best chance at having your felony reduced, potentially saving you a life sentence.

Are you in the Visalia or Tulare area and facing charges of voluntary manslaughter? The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide tenacious representation throughout your case and will fight hard for your freedom. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Christopher Martens has successfully represented clients in Fresno, Tulare and Kings Counties and will not be afraid to take your case to trial. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.

About the Author

Martens & Brusseau

Bio Visalia and Bakersfield criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his life to helping those who have been accused of crimes or injured due to the negligence of others.


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