In California, there are two types of homicide: murder, in which someone kills someone else intentionally or with malice, and manslaughter, in which someone kills someone else unintentionally or without malice.
California recognizes three types of manslaughter: voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter.
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What is voluntary manslaughter?
Voluntary manslaughter in California is usually used to describe killing another person in the heat of passion or during a spontaneous fight. These are scenarios in which you were provoked and driven to act without sound judgement, in a way that any other reasonable person would be in the same situation.
Voluntary manslaughter is a crime with no “malice aforethought”, meaning no intent to kill and/or acting with reckless regard for human life. In “heat of the moment” scenarios, where you are reacting to a highly charged emotional moment or perceived threat of danger, it is assumed that there is no malice aforethought.
What is involuntary manslaughter?
In California, involuntary manslaughter is usually used to describe one of two scenarios:
- Killing someone while committing an unlawful act (less than a felony)
- Killing someone while doing something legal but still potentially deadly if performed without caution.
Involuntary manslaughters are often cases of self-defense, or accidents.
What is vehicular manslaughter?
You can be charged with vehicular manslaughter if you cause an accident and:
- The other driver or their passengers die;
- One or several of your passengers die; and/or
- A pedestrian or other third party dies as a result of your negligence.
In order to prove vehicular manslaughter, the prosecution has to show:
- That you caused the accident and death by either doing something illegal (but less than a felony), or doing something legal but reckless
- That your actions were dangerous to human life under the circumstances
- That did what you did with an ordinary degree of negligence
- That your actions caused the death or deaths.
What are the potential penalties for manslaughter in California?
The State of California holds that there are different penalties for different types of manslaughter.
Voluntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by 3, 6, or 11 years in state prison, depending on the crime. It also counts as a “strike” under the Three Strikes Law.
Involuntary manslaughter is generally considered to be a less serious offense than voluntary manslaughter, but it still a felony. It is usually punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in country jail—some part of which you may be able to serve under probation, depending on the details of your case. These convictions to not count as “strikes” under the Three Strikes Laws.
Vehicular manslaughter has more variable sentencing, as it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the details of the case as well as your prior criminal history. If charged as a misdemeanor, vehicular manslaughter is punishable by up to one year in county jail. If charged as a felony, vehicular manslaughter is punishable by 2, 4, or 6 years in state prison, depending on the details of the crime. It can also result in the suspension of your driver’s license.
What should I do if I am charged with manslaughter in California?
If you are facing a manslaughter case, it is absolutely essential that you have the right attorney by your side. Are you or a loved one are facing manslaughter charges in Tustin, California? If so, Attorney Edward R. Flores is ready to help. Call today for a free consultation on your case.