Manslaughter is killing another human being without prior planning or premeditation. A manslaughter charge is taken seriously and carries harsh consequences such as hefty fines, serving time in prison, a strike on your record, revocation of your driver's license, and probation. If you are facing manslaughter or related charges, we invite you to seek our criminal defense services at the Los Angeles Criminal lawyer.
What Manslaughter Entails
Although both murder and manslaughter are similar in nature, manslaughter is a less serious crime. While murder requires malice, manslaughter is the illegal killing of a person without malice.
Malice happens when you respond with an intention to kill or implied malice. However, when you kill somebody else in a quarrel or heat of passion, the law presumes that you did not respond with malice.
There are three forms of manslaughter in California, namely:
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Vehicular manslaughter
Under California Penal Code Section 192 PC, a defendant commits voluntary manslaughter when they kill another person:
- In a sudden quarrel,
- In the heat of passion, or
- Based on impact self-defense.
The Heat of Passion or Sudden Quarrel
To kill somebody else in the heat of passion or a sudden quarrel means:
- The defendant was provoked
- Consequently, they responded rashly and with intense emotions that obscured their judgment or reasoning
- The provocation could have led an average individual to act recklessly and with no due deliberation, which is, from desire instead of from judgment
In respect to Penal Code Section 192a PC, the heat of passion is any intense or violent emotion that makes an individual act rashly. If between the moment you're provoked, and the moment you kill, you've adequate time to relax and regain the capability to think realistically, then you are likely to be found guilty of a planned murder.
The law has not defined the set standards for what establishes sufficient provocation. Nonetheless, it is agreed that it cannot be remote or slight.
The provocation should be so persuasive that it would make an average individual in a similar state of affairs to respond emotionally instead of logically. How a defendant responded is only justified if it's how an average fictional individual would have responded.
Consequences of Violating Penal Code Section 192(a) PC
If charged with voluntary manslaughter, you risk serving a three (3), six (6), or eleven (11)-year sentence in prison. A conviction could also attract the penalties below:
A strike on your criminal record under the Three Strikes Law, which could increase the penalties if you have a previous felony or are convicted of a felony in the future. The increased penalties are as follows:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Community labor or service
- Withdrawal of the right to possess or own a firearm in accordance with PC 29800
- Attending counseling sessions like anger management program
- Any other term and condition that the judge deems logically related to the facts of your case
What are the Legal Defense to Penal Code Section 192(a) in California?
Discussed below are the possible defenses to Penal Code Section 192(a) that your competent criminal defense attorney will use:
Imperfect Self-defense/Defense of Self or Others
The self-defense law justifies a defendant killing another individual when the defendant kills to defend themselves or another person from suffering severe bodily hurt, being killed, raped, robbed, maimed or the alleged victim of other atrocious and forcible offense. This law allows you to use any method that is reasonably essential to defend against this kind of harm.
Imperfect self-defense is when a defendant kills somebody else because:
- They think they or another person is in imminent risk of being killed or severely injured and
- Thought that fatal force was essential to protect against the risk, but
- More than one of those thoughts was not reasonable
Imperfect self-defense doesn't relieve you from criminal accountability altogether. Instead, it is a mitigating factor that reduces murder charges to voluntary manslaughter.
If you kill another human being because you do not understand your act's nature and cannot tell what is right, you could have a right to a ruling of innocence by virtue of insanity. Governed by the M'Naghten test, the insanity defense excuses the otherwise crime.
You cannot be convicted of violating Penal Code Section 192 a PC when you accidentally kill a person. Accident only applies as a legal defense when you:
- Did not have an intent to cause harm
- Didn't act in negligence when the accident occurred
- Were engaged in legal action when the accident resulting in the killing occurred
Plea Bargaining from Murder
It is worth remembering that Penal Code Section 192a in itself is a defense to a murder charge. That means, if accused of murder, you could argue that you acted during a quarrel and have your penalties reduced significantly.
Under California Penal Code Section 192b PC, involuntary manslaughter occurs when you kill somebody else unintentionally, either:
- When committing an offense that isn't an inherently dangerous felony, or
- While engaging in a legal action that results in death without due care.
How the Prosecutor Proves Involuntary Manslaughter
To present evidence that you are guilty of Penal Code Section 192b PC, the prosecution should prove the facts of crime below beyond any reasonable doubt:
- You committed legal conduct in an illegal way or an unlawful act that does not amount to a California felony
- You were involved in the offense or acted with criminal negligence
- Your conduct resulted in death or another human being
For instance: John wants to watch a football match. So he goes to a sports bar and sits next to Jeff, who is a tennis enthusiast. As John's game is about to kick off, Jeff asks the bartender to switch the TV channel to the channel showing tennis.
John politely asks Jeff to switch the TV channel to the football match but is ignored. As a result, John takes off a gun which is a California misdemeanor as a way of threatening Jeff to change the channel.
When Jeff sees John displaying the gun, he unexpectedly jumps at John and takes the weapon from him. Consequently, the gun accidentally goes off, kicking Jeff. Although John didn't purpose to kill Jeff, the fact that Jeff is shot and dies while John was committing a California misdemeanor that makes involuntary manslaughter the most suitable charge in this case.
California Offense or Legal Conduct in an Illegal Way
Involuntary manslaughter takes place only when you do something wrong. The wrongful behavior could be:
- An infraction, which is an offense that is punishable only by a fine like a traffic violation
- A misdemeanor
- An action that isn't an offense; however, it's executed illegally
- Felony which is not well-thought-out to be inherently dangerous
If a defendant kills a person while committing a California felony, which is considered inherently dangerous, they won't be convicted of PC 192b. Instead, they will be convicted of murder according to felony-murder law.
Irrespective of whether you're accused of PC 192b established on an underlying legal act or offense, the prosecution should prove that the defendant performed with criminal negligence.
Criminal negligence goes beyond inattention, error in judgment, or normal carelessness. It happens when:
You act in a careless manner that leads to an increased risk of severe bodily hurt or death, and
Any reasonable person should know that acting that way would lead to that kind of risk
Caused Somebody Else's Death
Your conduct is said to have caused somebody else's death if the death was the
- Direct, and
- A probable consequence of the defendant's conduct, and it wouldn't have happened without the defendant's conduct. In other words, a reasonable individual would have realized that there was a possibility of death occurring.
Involuntary Manslaughter Founded on Legal Duty
Involuntary manslaughter founded on failing to do a legal duty is a type of Penal Code 192b that has another legal definition. The facts of crime include:
- A defendant has a lawful duty to the alleged victim
- The defendant did not perform the legal duty
- The failure was criminally negligent
- The failure to do the legal duty caused the alleged victim's death
The question of whether you have a lawful duty to another person is something that should be determined only by the judge.
Relationships that may lead to a legal duty include:
- A paid caretaker and the individual they are paid to take care of
- Parent-child relationship
- A relationship between 2 individuals where one has presumed accountability for the other
Penalties, Punishment, and Consequences Carried by Penal Code Section 192b
Involuntary manslaughter in California is a felony. It attracts penalties such as:
- Formal probation
- A two, three, or four-year jail sentence
- A maximum of $10,000 in fines
Moreover, if you kill another person with a gun or other deadly weapon accidentally and later get convicted of Penal Code Section 192b, that conviction will carry a strike under Three Strikes Law.
Generally, the offense in question also triggers a civil lawsuit by the victim's family. When successful, you could face huge civil penalties.
Defenses to Penal Code Section 192b Charges
When a person dies, especially in a mysterious way, the police and prosecution team will undoubtedly be involved. They will also want to blame a person. Consequently, they will rush investigations or even jump into conclusions, and leave innocent persons defending themselves against PC 192b charges.
Luckily there are numerous defenses to the charges that your proficient attorney can use. They include:
All involuntary manslaughter cases are accidental in one way or the other. This is because they involve circumstances where the accused didn't intend to kill another person. However, if you were not committing any unlawful act (wasn't acting with criminal negligence), then the defense of accident could be used to the charges in question.
For this legal defense, your criminal defense lawyer should be in a position to prove that you:
- Did not have a criminal intent to cause harm
- Were involved in a legal activity when the accident occurred
- Weren't acting with criminal negligence when the accident causing the death occurred
Lack of Enough Evidence
In some cases, what looks simple, the law enforcers make a quick decision as far as death is concerned. Then they present the case to a prosecutor who believes their side of the story. This one of the reasons why having a lawyer by your side is essential.
Your lawyer will conduct an investigation. They will also invest resources and time in reexamining proof presented, interview witnesses and then engage independent forensic experts who will uncover what transpired.
You were Wrongly Accused or Arrested
Likewise, people falsely blame others for violating involuntary manslaughter laws. It could be a person who wants to get revenge against you or the deceased's loved one who wants to minimize the victim's role in their death by holding another person accountable.
It is, therefore, vital to hire an attorney experienced with homicide cases. This is because the attorney knows the stakes as well as the importance of technical details.
The Defendant Acted in Defense of Self or Defense of Others
This legal defense only applies when all the facts below are true:
- The defendant reasonably thought that they or another person was in forthcoming danger of suffering severe bodily hurt or being robbed, maimed, raped, killed,
- The defendant thought that the instant use of force was required to protect against the danger, and
- The defendant used only the force required to defend against the danger.
If your criminal defense attorney can prove all the above statements, then you aren't guilty of violating PC 192b.
Unlike the previously discussed types of manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter happens while you're driving a vehicle. The consequences attracted by Penal 192c depend on whether you acted with ordinary or gross negligence.
PC 192(c)(1) Vehicular Manslaughter with Gross Negligence
For you to be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, the prosecutor should prove the following:
- While operating a car, you committed an infraction or misdemeanor or a legal act in a manner that might lead to death
- The conduct was hazardous to human life under the circumstances
- You engaged in the conduct with gross negligence
- Your behavior led to the death of somebody else
Gross negligence goes beyond ordinary inattentiveness, a mistake in judgment, or carelessness. It happens only when: An individual acts in a reckless manner which creates an increased risk of severe bodily injury or death, and A reasonable individual would have known that acting that way could create that risk.
Possible Penalties Attracted by PC 192(c)(1)
PC 192(c)(1) is a California wobbler. That means it can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor depending on your record and the facts of the case. If charged with a misdemeanor, you will face the following consequences:
- A maximum of a year in jail
- Misdemeanor probation
- $1,000 in fines
If charged with a felony, you are likely to face:
- Formal probation
- $10,000 in fines
- A two, four, or six-year sentence in prison
Penal Code 192(c)(2)- Ordinary or Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter
The following are the elements of PC 192(c)(1) that a prosecutor must prove beyond any doubt:
- While operating a car, the defendant committed an infraction, misdemeanor, or illegally engaged in legal conduct
- The conduct the defendant engaged in was dangerous to human life under the circumstances
- The defendant engaged in the conduct with ordinary negligence
- The conduct led to the death of somebody else
Ordinary negligence means the defendant did not use reasonable care to stop reasonably foreseeable injury to another person.
PC 192(c)(2) Penalties
Ordinary/misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter is punished by:
- Summary probation
- $1,000 in fines
- One year sentence in jail
Penal Code 192(c)(3) PC- Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain
PC 192(c)(3) is another type of vehicular manslaughter. It happens if you accidentally kill another while intentionally wrecking your car to commit insurance fraud. The elements of the crime include:
- While operating a car, the defendant knowingly participates or causes an accident
- The defendant does so intending to make a false insurance claim
- The defendant does so with an intent to defraud another person or their insurance provider
- The accident kills another person
PC 192(c)(3) is a California felony, and it attracts a four, six, or ten-year sentence in California state prison and a fine of $10,000.
Withdrawal of Driving Privileges
If charged with any form of vehicular manslaughter, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will revoke the defendant's driver's license. Also, the defendant won't be in a position to get the license reinstated for three years from the revocation date.
If you operate a car during the duration when the license is revoked, you risk facing driving on a suspended license charge.
Find A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you have been accused of manslaughter, it is essential to understand how serious the penalties of a conviction are. Not only will you serve time in jail or prison and forced to pay huge fines but also your career and reputation may be altered for good. For this reason, you should speak with qualified attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer. For many years we have defended clients in Los Angeles, and we are ready to use this experience to work for you. Call us at 310-502-1314 to set up your initial consultation.