Involuntary manslaughter is one of the most severely charged offenses in Los Angeles. If charged with involuntary manslaughter, your entire life changes. You are labeled as a killer, although you did not intend to kill the decedent. Having a criminal record can lead to hefty fines, incarceration, disruption of life, and could make securing employment difficult. As a result, you need a compassionate criminal defense lawyer who can fight for your rights and aggressively defend you. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we understand what you are going through. We can answer all your questions as well as develop a strategy for the best possible result in the case.
Understanding Involuntary Manslaughter Laws
Per California Penal Code Section 192b PC, involuntary manslaughter can be defined using the following facts of the crime:
- A defendant committed an infraction, misdemeanor, legal conduct executed illegally, or an offense that isn't an integrally dangerous felony
- The defendant committed the offense or conduct with criminal negligence, and
- The defendant's conduct caused somebody else's death
Discussed below is an overview of all elements of the crime. It will help you understand the legal meaning of Penal Code Section 192b better.
Legal Conduct in an Illegal Manner or California Crime
Involuntary manslaughter only happens when you do something wrong. The wrongful conduct could be either:
- An infraction (an offense which only attracts a fine like traffic violation)
- A misdemeanor
- A felony that isn't well-thought-out to be inherently dangerous
- A conduct that isn't an offense but is executed in an illegal way
If a defendant kills another person when committing a California felony, which is fundamentally dangerous, they won't be convicted with PC 192b. Instead, they will be convicted with murder per felony-murder rule.
Irrespective of whether the defendant is accused of involuntary manslaughter founded on primary legal conduct or underlying offense, the prosecution should prove they acted with criminal negligence.
Criminal negligence goes beyond ordinary carelessness, error in judgment, or inattention. It takes place when:
- An individual acts in an irresponsible manner which creates a risk of severe bodily injury or death, and
- Any reasonable individual would have been aware that behaving in that manner might create a risk
For instance, Joseph leaves his nine-year-old daughter alone in the house when he goes to work. When he is away, the child slips and falls on their head and dies. Joseph isn't guilty of California Penal Code Section 192b PC since his conduct isn't criminally negligence. The chances of the child slipping and falling while he was away weren't great. Moreover, he could not have predicted that an injury or death would originate from his conduct.
Caused Somebody Else's Death
Your conduct is said to have led to somebody else's death if the death was a natural, probable, and direct consequence of the conduct. And the demise could not have taken place without your conduct.
That means a reasonable individual could have known that the demise was probable to occur.
Violation of California Penal Code Section 192b PC Founded on Legal Duty
Failure to do a legal duty is a category of Penal Code Section 192b PC. However, failure to do a legal duty has a different definition. Its elements of the crime include:
- The defendant had a legal duty to the alleged victim
- The defendant did not perform that lawful duty
- The failure was criminally negligent
- The failure caused the alleged victim's death
Whether you had a legal obligation to another person is a question that the judge, in your case, determines.
Relationships that could bring about a lawful duty include:
- A parent-child relationship
- A paid caretaker connection with the individual they are looking after
- A relationship between 2 individuals, where one has an assumed charge for the other
Understanding the Difference Between Voluntary Manslaughter and Involuntary Manslaughter
If you're involved in circumstances that result in another person's death, you will experience emotions like anxiety and stress. One of the leading causes of these emotions is because you don't know how the prosecutor will charge the offense. Manslaughter is another legal term other than murder, and there are two categories of manslaughter, namely:
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Involuntary manslaughter
Although these terms are descriptive, they don't explain what the prosecution should establish to convict you of each offense.
Typically, voluntary manslaughter isn't charged as an offense in Los Angeles. It is a reduced charge of murder. It involves killing an individual following a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is charged when a defendant kills somebody else unintentionally. It could happen when you commit an offense that isn't an inherently dangerous felony or is legal conduct, which could result in death without due care.
Penalties Attracted by Violation of California PC 192b
Violation of Penal Code Section 192b PC law is a California felony. It is punishable by:
- A formal or felony probation
- A two, three or four-year jail sentence
- $10,000 in fine
Under realignment legislation, you can now serve the involuntary manslaughter sentence in jail instead of in the California state prison. The realignment legislation (came into effect in 2011 per Assembly Bill 109), transformed the sentencing system for over five hundred crimes in the state of California. It allows these crimes to be punished in jail instead of state prison even when the offense is a California felony.
Moreover, under PC 1170h, the court can let a defendant serve part of the involuntary manslaughter sentence in jail and serve the remaining portion of their sentence under the supervision of a county probation officer.
Additionally, if you kill another person using a deadly weapon or a firearm and are convicted of Penal Code Section 192b PC, then your conviction is a strike per three strikes law.
More often than not, involuntary manslaughter will also trigger a civil claim by the alleged victim's family. If successful, you could face a civil judgment for significant monetary damages awarded against you. That means you will be required to pay a lot of money as compensation linked to the wrongful death lawsuit.
These consequences will be imposed on top of the penalties linked to Penal Code Section 192b PC.
Loss of the Entitlement to Own a Firearm
If found guilty of any California felony, including Penal Code Section 192b, you will lose the entitlement to own a firearm. Also, if sentenced for involuntary manslaughter and are later found to have control of a gun, you risk been charged with PC 12021.
How to Beat PC 192b Charges
Involuntary manslaughter is one of the severely charged offenses in Los Angeles. Therefore, when a person dies under suspicious circumstances, the prosecutor and the police will want to arrest and accuse a person. And in most cases, they will rush investigation and jump into conclusion.
Luckily, there are several defenses that an experienced defense lawyer can use. They include:
The Defendant Acted in Defense of Self or Others
To succeed using this defense, the defendant must establish that:
- The defendant reasonably thought that they or another person was in impending risk of being raped, robbed, maimed, or killed or sustaining serious bodily injuries
- The accused thought that immediate application of dangerous force was essential to protect against the danger, and
- The accused used no more force than was practically required to shield against the danger
If a defendant can establish all the facts mentioned above, then they aren't guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Your criminal defense lawyer should also help you prove imperfect self-defense as a legal defense. Imperfect self-defense is identical to the defense of self. However, imperfect self-defense is used if you thought that you required to apply force to stop immediate danger wasn't reasonable under the circumstances.
It is worth noting, this defense doesn't relieve a defendant of the criminal charge, but it could reduce the sentence.
Every involuntary manslaughter case is an accident. The cases involve conditions where the accused didn't intend to kill the alleged victim.
Nevertheless, if you were not doing anything wrong or acting with criminal negligence, the accident defense could apply to your case. Nonetheless, you will be required to prove that you:
- Did not have criminal intent to cause death
- Weren't behaving with criminal negligence during the unintended killing
- Were otherwise performing a lawful activity during the accident
You Were Falsely Accused
People are falsely accused of violating California Penal Code Section 192b every day. Maybe the alleged victim's loved one wants to reduce the responsibility of the victim in their demise by blaming it on another person. Or perhaps a person wants to harm or take vengeance against the defendant.
There is Inadequate Proof to Convict A Defendant
Occasionally, in what looks like a simple case, the law enforcement agency may make a rush decision concerning death. The police present the case to a prosecution team that simply believes the police.
That is why you should have a competent defense attorney. Your attorney will:
- Conduct their investigations
- Invest resources and time in interviewing all witnesses
- Analyze evidence presented
- Engage independent forensic experts to reveal what took place
You can use this defense if you think that the prosecutor has charged you wrongly. You need to assert an alibi with supporting proof to establish that you were elsewhere where the killing took place.
Another valid legal defense is the reason of insanity. To successfully use this defense, you have to satisfy the Mc'Naughten test of insanity. In other words, you have to prove that due to the mental condition, you were not aware of the wrongfulness of your conduct or couldn't understand the quality and nature of your behavior.
For instance, Ann lives with her sister, Mary, who has bipolar disorder and refuses to take her drugs. Acute paranoia that a person wants to kill her is one of the condition's symptoms. She also experiences hallucinations, and the mental condition becomes worse. One evening, Mary gets home and sees a book and a pen on a desk. She hallucinates and thinks that the book had a note from her sister that she was going to kill Mary. As a result, Mary gets into Ann's bedroom and stabs her to death using a knife.
In the example above, Mary can plead innocent by reason of insanity and may not be found guilty.
Discussed below are offenses that are commonly charged alongside or in place of involuntary manslaughter.
Murder (PC 187)
A homicide is considered murder if there is the intent to kill (malice aforethought). Malice aforethought is the element that makes murder different from manslaughter.
However, if you kill a person accidentally when violating a California felony, you'll be accused of murder rather than manslaughter, per felony-murder rule.
A conviction carries a fifteen-year to life imprisonment.
And should the murder be a special circumstance murder, you will face a death penalty. A perfect example of a special circumstances murder is a case where:
- The accused killed a law enforcement officer or witness
- Killed a person for financial benefit
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (Penal Code Section 191.5 PC)
If you commit vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will be charged with either:
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (PC 191.5a), or
- Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (PC 191.5b)
The crime is punishable by more severe penalties than both involuntary manslaughter or ordinary vehicular manslaughter.
A violation of California PC 191.5a is a felony that carries a four, six, or ten-year sentence.
Although vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is committed with ordinary negligence, it's a wobbler. A felony carries a maximum four-year sentence.
Vehicular Manslaughter (California Penal Code Section 192c PC)
PC 192c is similar to involuntary manslaughter, but the only variance is that the former happens when you are driving a car.
If a defendant commits PC 192c with gross negligence (identical to the criminal negligence element in PC 192b), then the offense is known as gross vehicular manslaughter. It is a wobbler and can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony attracts a two, four, or six-year sentence.
And if the defendant commits the crime with ordinary negligence, they will be charged with a misdemeanor. It carries a maximum of one year in jail.
Voluntary Manslaughter (Penal Code Section 192a)
Voluntary manslaughter is a killing that takes place due to the heat of passion or a sudden quarrel. In layman's language, it is a voluntary or deliberate killing. However, it carries less severe penalties than murder because it is due to the accused's emotions.
It carries the penalties below:
- A strike on a criminal record per three strikes law
- Three, six, or eleven years in California state prison
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can You Still be Charged with PC 192b if You were Drunk at the Time of the Killing?
Yes. If you weren't aware of your conduct as a result of voluntary intoxication and the conduct caused the demise of somebody else, you can still be convicted of involuntary manslaughter. When you voluntarily consume alcohol to unconsciousness, you are held to ignore the danger that while unconscious, you will commit conduct that puts human life in danger.
- Is It Possible for You to Have an Involuntary Manslaughter Charge Reduced to Attempted Involuntary Manslaughter?
Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing. Therefore, the attempt to commit it is not possible. To be charged with attempt, you should have planned to commit an offense.
Although both voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter are lesser crimes to murder, involuntary manslaughter isn't less severe than voluntary manslaughter.
- Can You be Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter for the Demise of a Fetus?
You cannot be accused of involuntary manslaughter in this case because manslaughter doesn't apply to a fetus's death. Although the killing of a fetus is present in the legal definition of murder, manslaughter is a person's illegal killing. Nowhere in manslaughter law is the term ''fetus'' used.
- What are Aggravating and Mitigating Factors?
Every involuntary manslaughter case is unique.
Aggravating factors are relevant circumstances, proved by the evidence presented at the time of the trial, that makes the harshest penalty suitable in the judge's verdict.
The common aggravating factors in California include a prior criminal record, particularly of the same crime, the instrument used, your relationship with the decedent, number of alleged victims involved, and if you were brutal when committing the offense.
Mitigating factors such as the accused's mental condition and the insignificant role they played in the commission of involuntary manslaughter can influence the judge to impose a less severe sentence.
As you can see, both aggravating and mitigating factors are essential in shaping a Penal Code Section 192b PC case from the inception. Consequently, you should tell your criminal defense lawyer all relevant factors.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If a person dies under suspicious circumstances, police officers and prosecutors will get involved and will want to hold a person liable. And due to the public's high expectations, they will conduct investigations in a rush, making an innocent person fight against PC 192b charges. Involuntary manslaughter cases are complicated; thus, you shouldn't risk a conviction. A conviction carries adverse effects on your reputation, future, career, and freedom. Therefore, it is wise to safeguard your future by engaging the services of the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer. We can help you come up with the best possible legal defense for your charge. For a confidential consultation with our legal team, please contact us at 310-502-1314.