• JC Serrano

Handling Manslaughter Charges in California

Updated: Jun 5

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If you wanted to or not, causing the death of another person will result in serious criminal charges. If you have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Los Angeles, you can contact a Criminal Law Attorney right away.

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Manslaughter is a serious crime (Penal Code Section 192)

It is manslaughter under California Penal Code section 192, subdivisions (a) and (b) when a person kills another without intending to kill that person but does so in a fit of rage (voluntary manslaughter) or due to incompetence or during the commission of certain unlawful actions (involuntary manslaughter) (b). When another person's death is caused by grossly negligent or unlawful driving, manslaughter may be prosecuted under Penal Code section 192, subsection (c).

Even if the death was unintentional, manslaughter is a severe charge that necessitates the immediate assistance of an experienced Criminal Law Attorney. A strong defense may result in charges being dismissed or reduced, or, if convicted, a penalty that is on the lower end of the range of potential penalties.

In California, homicide is considered the worst of all violent crimes.

Homicide can be prosecuted in California under three different statutes:

  • California's murder law, Penal Code 187 PC, is the most serious form of homicide.

  • Voluntary manslaughter, Penal Code 192 PC

  • Involuntary manslaughter, Penal Code 192b PC

In California, there are some distinctions between murder and manslaughter.

To the family of a person murdered by another, the distinction between murder and homicide is irrelevant—a loved one is dead in any case. The distinction between the two terms may be significant for those accused of murdering another human being—the difference between being executed or spending the rest of your life in jail and serving fewer than twenty-five years in prison with the possibility of parole. The motive of the person charged with the death is the primary distinction between manslaughter and murder.

Murder needs Malice Aforethought

Murder in California is described as the intentional killing of a human being or fetus with "malice aforethought," which means you committed an act of "wanton disregard for human life" that had a high probability of causing the death of someone else.

There are two degrees of murder: first and second.

If the following conditions are met, first-degree murder is charged:

  • The homicide was planned, deliberate, or intentional.

  • A destructive device, poison, torture, lying in wait, or armor-piercing bullets are used in the homicide.

  • Under California's felony murder code, the homicide occurred during the commission of a variety of serious felony crimes.

It is felony murder under the current felony murder provision, which was signed into law in 2018 if you:

  • Directly kill someone while committing a felony or attempting to commit a felony.

  • Help and abet a murder.

  • Are you a key player in the homicide?

  • Assassinate a police officer who is on duty.

It's important to note that this new felony murder law replaces an old felony murder rule that permitted conviction regardless of motive if a victim died while committing a felony. If you did not knowingly kill anyone while committing a crime, you could not be charged with felony murder under the new rule.

A murder is prosecuted as second-degree murder, whether it is not a capital, felony, or first-degree murder

Manslaughter is Without Malice

Manslaughter, on the other hand, is a death that occurred without forethought or premeditation. If you were charged with manslaughter in California, you would never consider murdering another human being, whether it was voluntary or involuntary. When it comes to voluntary manslaughter, the death most likely happened in the heat of the moment (an argument with another person turns violent, or you find your spouse in a compromising position with another person).

In order to be charged with involuntary manslaughter, you must have done something that was either negligent or happened when you were committing a minor crime. There is a third type of manslaughter called vehicular manslaughter, which means you killed someone with your car but did not plan to (while you were driving under the influence).

What the Prosecutor Must Prove in Voluntary Manslaughter Cases to Get a Conviction

Hiring a Criminal Law Attorney should be the first step in securing the best possible result in a voluntary manslaughter case. To shield you from the potential fines of voluntary manslaughter in California, your Criminal Law Attorney bears the burden of evidence. The components of voluntary manslaughter are as follows:

Another Person's Death

To be considered manslaughter, the defendant's actions must result in the death of another individual. The deliberate killing of another person during a conflict without malice aforethought is known as voluntary manslaughter. A voluntary manslaughter offense does not apply to any injury caused by the use of a lethal weapon that does not result in immediate death. However, under California law, the prosecutor may file other charges for the crime, such as attempted murder.

There Was Intent

Surveillance recordings and eyewitness testimony would be used by the prosecution to piece together the circumstances that led to the murder. If the defendant's conduct during the quarrel or in the heat of passion shows a disregard for human life, the defendant's unlawful motives would be obvious.

If the defendant threatens the other party with a lethal weapon during a quarrel or a fit of rage, it is apparent that the defendant has unlawful intentions to kill. He/she eventually kills the victim with that weapon. The use of a lethal weapon during a quarrel demonstrates a disregard for human life, which may be used to accuse the defendant of voluntary manslaughter.

The defendant's actions had no justification or legal justification.

Disputes are common in marriages, and most instances of voluntary manslaughter occur during quarrels in the "heat of passion." During quarrels and disputes, feelings of love or hate can become uncontrollable, causing people to do dumb stuff.

Since there was any provoking during the argument, the court presumes the defendant did not have malice aforethought when he or she committed voluntary manslaughter in the heat of passion. In that case, there is no legal justification for the shooting, even though the debate became heated since any rational individual in the same position and circumstances would not have done the same. If the defendant was acting in self-defense at the time of the shooting, he or she could not be found guilty.

California Penalties for Voluntary Manslaughter

Second-degree murder is described as voluntary manslaughter. Second-degree murder is a premeditated homicide in which the defendant intends to cause physical damage to another person by acting in a manner that shows a disregard for human life. Certain considerations are weighed by the judge when deciding on the appropriate form of sentence to impose on a criminal who is guilty of voluntary manslaughter. These elements include:

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Mitigating Factors

To assess the severity of the sentence to impose on a convicted defendant, the judge considers mitigating factors surrounding the case. Your Criminal Law Attorney must identify mitigating circumstances in the murder case in order to persuade the jury that you are deserving of a lesser sentence. The absence of a criminal record is an outstanding example of a mitigating factor that can lead to a less serious sentence for voluntary manslaughter. Furthermore, if the perpetrator takes blame for the murder and is not a danger to the community, the judge is likely to impose a less harsh sentence.

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating factors, unlike mitigating factors, increase the defendant's sentence and make the punishment more severe. The facts surrounding the case are aggravating factors in crime, making the offense more severe. In a voluntary manslaughter case, having a criminal background counts as an aggravating factor, as the suspect is presumed to be a threat to the community, resulting in tougher punishments.

The courts also take into account the victim's vulnerability as well as the brutality of the defendant's conduct that led to the killing. If there are more aggravating circumstances in the case of voluntary manslaughter, the perpetrator will face harsher punishment. If you're charged with voluntary manslaughter, you'll need the help of a Criminal Law Attorney to avoid facing harsh sentences and a conviction. If the defendant is found guilty of voluntary manslaughter under California penal code 192, the judge can impose the following penalties:

Imprisonment with a monetary penalty

Any criminal conviction carries a lengthy prison term, particularly if it includes a violent crime such as murder or manslaughter. Unlike a murder charge, which carries a minimum penalty of 15 years or life in jail, a voluntary manslaughter charge carries a sentence of three to thirteen years in state prison. As part of the sentence, the defendant will pay a maximum fine of $10,000.

Punishment for Three Strikes

The three-strikes law is a legal scheme for punishing felony prisoners who have become well-known for their crimes. The defendant will be sentenced under the three-strikes rule whether he or she has already been convicted of a maximum of three violent felony offenses. If the defendant has a violent felony conviction on his or her criminal record before the arrest time, he or she faces a sentence of twenty-five years in jail.

The Right to Own a Firearm Has Been Taken Away

A defendant's gun ownership rights may be affected if he or she is convicted of more than one criminal offense; as a result, the defendant may not be allowed to purchase or keep a gun in the future. Under penal code 29800, owning a weapon as a criminal is a distinct offense that the prosecutor can opt to prosecute individually in a voluntary murder case. If the defendant is a narcotics abuser, this may be considered an aggravating factor, and the defendant's gun possession rights may be revoked. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.

Volunteering in the Community

The court may also order the prisoner to perform community service as part of the sentence for voluntary manslaughter. Building programs or roadside jobs are examples of community service projects for which the defendant should volunteer. Since the court believes the offender is not a threat to the community, mitigating factors such as a lack of previous criminal records make this type of punishment appropriate.

Services for Counseling

Counseling services are deemed necessary by the court to assist the offender psychologically and emotionally following voluntary manslaughter. If the defendant's acts were motivated by rage during a "heat of passion" confrontation, he or she might be eligible for an anger management class. As part of the manslaughter conviction penalty, the judge will also order the defendant to seek mental and emotional help from a psychologist. Aside from therapy and community service, the judge has the authority to add other provisions to the sentence that are pertinent to this case.

Since most of the legal defenses that exist in a voluntary manslaughter case are the same, you'll need to hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer with prior experience prosecuting similar violent cases for better services. The Criminal Defense Lawyer will look at and review the case and see if there are any circumstances that could reduce the sentences a judge will possibly impose for voluntary manslaughter.

In California, there are viable legal defenses to charges of voluntary manslaughter.

A Criminal Defense Lawyer will defend a client accused of voluntary manslaughter by presenting certain counter-arguments to the prosecutor's criminal elements shown to the jury. Both the prosecutor and the defendant should be able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. A Criminal Defense Lawyer can present the following legal defenses in a voluntary manslaughter case:


Self-defense laws permit a person to use any lawful means to defend themselves or others from bodily harm, rape, theft, or death. As a result, you will not be guilty of voluntary manslaughter if you kill someone because you have a fair suspicion that he or she is going to kill you or cause serious harm. Surveillance videotape and eyewitness testimony can be very helpful