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Handling Manslaughter Charges in California

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

How To Deal With Manslaughter Charges In California

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 in arguing that the defendant killed the victim in self-defense.


If the defendant was psychotic at the time of the killing, insanity would be a valid legal defense in a violent crime like voluntary manslaughter. An insane person is incapable of understanding or distinguishing between right and wrong. This type of defense can be raised by claiming that the defendant was legally insane at the time of the killing, as described by the law, which is a legal definition of insanity.


If the defendant did not have criminal intent to injure, destroy, or participate in any blameworthy negligence, an accident might be used as a legal defense. This form of criminal defense will be used by your Criminal Law Attorney if:

  • You have no intention of killing or harming anybody.

  • During the crash, you engaged in some illegal conduct.

  • During the crash, your conduct did not constitute negligence.

Plea Bargain for Murder Conviction

Since the sentences for murder under penal code 187 are so harsh, victims of murder frequently confess to murdering another person while pleading guilty to lesser charges such as voluntary manslaughter. When negotiating a plea deal, the Criminal Defense Lawyer will show the jury that you were fighting or behaving in "heat of passion" during a murder to get the charges reduced to voluntary manslaughter.

Involuntary Manslaughter

In California, involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person kills another person without due care or circumspection. Involuntary manslaughter is characterized as an illegal act that is not a crime but has the potential to cause death, as defined by Penal Code Section 192 (b) PC. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone dies without intending to kill. It is, therefore, an accidental act. Despite the fact that involuntary manslaughter is a less serious offense than voluntary manslaughter, it is nevertheless a serious crime with serious implications. If you or a loved one has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, it is important that you seek the legal assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced advocate who understands the correct concept of involuntary manslaughter.

California Laws Define Involuntary Manslaughter

Manslaughter, unlike murder, is an unintentional killing committed without malice. Involuntary and voluntary homicide are the two types of manslaughter. Killing in the heat of passion is referred to as voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is identical to murder, except that there is no provocation in this situation.

Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, arises as a result of either a negligent act or a high probability of personal injury. Involuntary manslaughter is described by Section 192(b) of the California Penal Code as the intentional or unintentional killing of another person while committing a crime. Murder and vehicular manslaughter are not the same as involuntary manslaughter. For a crime to be called murder, it must have "intent." To commit vehicular manslaughter, one must be operating a motor vehicle. Wrongdoings include the following:

  • A minor infraction or misdemeanor

  • According to California law, a felony is classified as a misdemeanor.

  • A criminal conviction for a crime that is not necessarily dangerous.

  • Unlawful conduct

The Procedure for Arresting a Person Who Has Committed Involuntary Manslaughter

Arresting anyone entails detaining them and denying them their freedom of movement. The police can arrest you for involuntary manslaughter under some circumstances. There are some examples:

  • When they have enough proof that you murdered the victim, a judge may issue an arrest warrant to the cops. In this case, the evidence may be the DNA, fingerprints, or blood samples taken at the crime scene.

  • When a cop sees you murdering the victim, he or she will apprehend you.

  • When you turn yourself into the police station and admit to murdering someone. Instead of arresting you, the police will hold you. When the police detain you for questioning, this is known as detention.

The police are required by law to remind you of your civil rights when you are arrested. The police, on the other hand, are not required to remind you of your rights during the detention. Some people do it before an interview, whether it's at the station or somewhere when you're in their custody. And if you are arrested, your rights continue to apply. Miranda protections are founded on the protection against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

Miranda's privileges include the following:

The Right to Silence. If you don't want to, you don't have to talk to the arresting officer or the interrogating officer. The police could try to question you about the events that led to the victim's death. Even if you feel compelled to justify yourself, it is critical not to respond.

Your statements can be used as evidence in court if you want to talk. If you insist on speaking to the officer despite the Miranda note, the officer has the right to keep your statements, which the prosecutor can use in court.

The right to consult a Criminal Law Attorney. Regardless of the crime you've done, you have the right to legal counsel. If the officer presses you, tell them you won't talk to them until your solicitor arrives.

If you are unable to afford a Criminal Law Attorney, one will be assigned to you. It is your right to have an attorney, but you might not be able to afford one due to financial constraints. The government will recruit one for you in this situation.

The prosecution can not use what you say as testimony in court if the police refuse to read your rights, whether during the arrest or before questioning. If he does, the Criminal Law Attorney will be able to refute it. The piece of evidence would not be admissible if the police force you to talk about the crime. In addition, any information gathered during the interrogation would be inadmissible.

Remember that even though you haven't been seen committing a crime, police can arrest you without a warrant. They can only arrest you if they suspect you of destroying or tampering with evidence or fleeing.

The police will write a written account of the crime and send it to the prosecutor while you are in their custody. The following information is normally included in an arrest report:

  • A summary of the circumstances that led to the victim's death.

  • Involuntary manslaughter is defined in-depth in this statement.

  • All witnesses to the crime, especially corroborating witnesses, give their testimonies.

  • The prosecutor will then look at the report and testimony to see if there is enough evidence to convict you.

Court Process

The Court Process is dependent on the current Judicial system.


You will be brought to court for arraignment, which is the first step of the court process until the prosecutor has enough evidence to convict you with involuntary manslaughter. You have the right to an immediate arraignment. Suspects in California are arraigned within two days of their arrest. If you couldn't afford a Criminal Law Attorney, a government-appointed attorney would have been assigned to your case by this point. If you don't speak English, the law requires that you be given an interpreter for the duration of the case.

At the arraignment, you will appear before a magistrate, who will read all of the charges brought against you. After that, the judge will ask you to enter a plea. You may join three different forms of pleases: not guilty, guilty, and no contest. Before you make a plea, your Criminal Law Attorney should advise you on the implications of each choice.

When you enter a guilty plea, you will be returned to jail and held until your sentencing date. You will move on to the next level if you enter a not guilty plea. During the arraignment period, your bail is also discussed. Depending on the facts of your case, the judge can decide to grant or refuse your bail.

Proceedings in Advance of Proceedings

A lot happens during the preliminary hearings. First, the Criminal Defense Lawyer and the prosecutor will gather more facts, review police records, and reach out to and interview witnesses in order to strengthen their cases. Your Criminal Defense Lawyer can also file motions challenging the prosecution's admissibility of such facts.

Any information that was not obtained lawfully can be challenged by your counsel. Proof obtained by unlawful wiretapping, illegal searches, or interrogations falls into this category. It's also possible that your case will be resolved at this stage. Instead of going to trial, you might reach an agreement with the prosecutor and get the case resolved.

Jury selection is also part of the pre-trial process. The judge will interview the jurors, along with the prosecutor and your Criminal Law Attorney, to decide if they are qualified to serve on the jury in an impartial manner.


In California, there are two types of courts: jury trials and court trials. Both trials are identical, with the exception that jurors chosen from among your peers determine the result of a jury trial. The prosecution will show proof proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt during an involuntary manslaughter trial. The facts presented by your Criminal Law Attorney will then be used to refute the prosecution's argument.

The jury will take a break to consider the facts before deciding whether or not you are guilty. You will be released if the jury finds you not guilty. However, if you are found guilty, you will be taken back into custody and face sentencing.


After the jury has found you guilty of involuntary manslaughter, you will be sentenced a few days after the main trial. The judge would then determine what form of punishment to administer based on a number of factors, including your previous convictions. You could face two to three years in jail if this is your first offense. If you have previous convictions, though, you will face a harsher sentence.


According to the constitution, if you are found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, you have the right to appeal. You can appeal your case to a higher court for consideration with the assistance of your solicitor. Appeals are normally filed when you believe the case was treated incorrectly. Depending on the facts of the case, the appellate court can order a new trial or release you.

The Prosecutor's Obligations

If you've been convicted, you'll be considered innocent unless proved guilty because the prosecutor has the presumption of proof. The prosecution would not have to prove that you intended to commit involuntary manslaughter, as in a murder case. The prosecutor must prove in court that the offense is actually involuntary manslaughter by demonstrating the following elements:

  • You acted in an illegitimate manner.

    • Involuntary manslaughter is described as the killing of someone while committing a crime. You would be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you were in a bar fight and the person you were fighting with died.

  • Criminal Negligence

    • The prosecutor must also show that you were negligent in your behavior. Negligence is proved because you knew your conduct would have negative repercussions but decided to do so anyway. It's criminal negligence if you strike the victim with an item to prevent them from hitting you or calling for help.

  • The victim died as a result of the actions.

    • The prosecutor should be able to prove that your conduct resulted in the death of the victim. The facts should suffice to demonstrate that the victim died as a result of your conduct. You will not be charged with involuntary manslaughter if the victims survive the act.

    • You might be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you failed to perform a duty owed to others. You will be fined as a doctor if you refuse to treat a seriously ill patient who eventually dies. The prosecutor must prove the following in such a case:

  • Duty of Care

    • The prosecution must prove that you owed the victim a duty of care that you failed to fulfill. According to the constitution, many occupations have a duty of care.

  • You did not fulfill your legal obligation.

    • The prosecution must prove that you failed to maintain your duty of care to the victim's protection despite having one. There must be ample proof that you violated the contract. The prosecutor must prove those elements to prove you violated the duty. These are the elements:

      • The prosecutor may demonstrate how a professional individual would have handled the case.

      • The prosecutor should be able to prove that you behaved in ways that were not approved by the governing body of your career. The Medical Board of California, for example.

      • You will be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you are a doctor and you refuse to treat your patient for whatever cause, and he or she dies.

  • Criminal Misconduct

    • Your conduct must have been criminally negligent. It is neglect to refuse to support others if you are aware that doing so will result in death. Criminal negligence encompasses more than carelessness. It refers to any acts that are considered high-risk and may result in injury or death. You, as a human, are capable of comprehending the consequences of your acts.

  • The victim died as a result of the actions.

    • The prosecution must also prove that the acts you were supposed to do but didn't, resulted in the death of the victim.

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Involuntary Manslaughter: Possible Defenses

The prosecution must show your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt if you are charged with involuntary manslaughter. The prosecution will show that all of the elements of the crime were present. The following defenses, however, may be used by your Criminal Law Attorney to cast doubt on the evidence:

  • It was an unintentional act.

    • Your Criminal Defense Lawyer could claim that you did not intend to kill the victim, despite the fact that you did. The act was not committed as a result of criminal negligence. The Criminal Law Attorney will prove that you behaved legally, but the victim died as a result of your actions. To prove that the act was an accident, your lawyer will provide proof that shows:

      • There was no intention of committing the crime.

      • There was no gross wrongdoing in this case.

      • When the accident occurred, you were doing something legal.

  • You acted to protect yourself.

    • Your Criminal Defense Lawyer could also claim that you were acting in self-defense. In California, self-defense laws empower you to kill someone only if they are a direct threat to you or someone else. This defense necessitates the defense to demonstrate that"

      • You acted quickly to avert a potentially dangerous situation.

      • Your decisions were logical.

      • When defending yourself, you used fair force.

  • There is insufficient proof.

    • Your Criminal Defense Lawyer may also demonstrate that the prosecutor lacks sufficient proof to prosecute or convict you. The police can arrest you if they believe the case is straightforward. A prosecutor will do the same thing without thoroughly investigating the facts of the case. If this is the case, you can file a motion to dismiss it.

  • A false Accusation.

    • The lawyer may even argue that you were wrongfully convicted of the crimes. In the name of bringing justice to their loved one's death, friends or family members of the victim can make false allegations. Your Criminal Defense Lawyer may be able to prove that the witness testimony or proof is false.

Involuntary Manslaughter Penalties

According to California Penal Code Section 192, involuntary manslaughter is a crime (b). If you are convicted, you will be sentenced to state prison for two, three, or four years. According to PC 672, you may also face a $10,000 fine. Realignment law was passed in 2011, enabling convicted individuals to complete their terms in jail rather than federal prison.

Assembly Bill (AB) 109 requires prisoners who have been convicted of more than 500 offenses to serve their time in jail rather than in prison. So, regardless of whether involuntary manslaughter is charged as a felony, you will spend two, three, or four years in a county jail under California Penal Code 1170(h). Even so, under 1170(h), you may be required to serve part of your sentence in county jail and the rest under mandatory supervision by a probation officer.

The victim's family may opt to sue you under the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60-377.62, in addition to receiving punitive actions. Since the circumstances surrounding a person's involuntary death are considered a wrongful death, you will be required to pay a large sum of money as compensation to the family if you are found guilty.

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