|California Manslaughter Defense
Manslaughter can be classified as voluntary, involuntary, or vehicular under California law.
Voluntary Manslaughter: PC 192(a)
The law on the crime of voluntary manslaughter is found at California penal code 192(a). Voluntary manslaughter is defined as an intentional killing that would otherwise be considered murder but is reduced due to some mitigating factor. Mitigating factors include imperfect self-defense, heat of passion, and diminished capacity.
Imperfect self-defense is defined as the intentional killing of another person while the defendant truly believed that he or she needed to act in self defense; however, a reasonable person, under similar circumstances, would not believe that he or she would have needed to act in self-defense.
Note: Threat of future harm is not sufficient to reduce a murder charge to a voluntary manslaughter charge by way of imperfect self-defense. For example, if the defendant learns that the victim was planning to kill the defendant's wife in the future it would not be a defense to murder charges, or manslaughter charges, to defend on the grounds that the victim was going to kill the defendant's wife sometime in the future. There must be a danger of imminent death or great bodily injury for imperfect self-defense to apply.
Heat of Passion Defense:
Heat of passion is defined as an intentional killing that occurs during the defendant's uncontrolled rage or passion. For example, if the defendant comes home to find his wife in bed with another man and the defendant immediately kills his wife or the other man, then the defendant may be found to have intentionally killed during the heat of passion.
A heat of passion defense requires that the defendant subjectively and objectively rose to the level of anger during a heat of passion event. This means that the defendant must have actually been so enraged that he could not control himself during the killing. In addition, the event that lead to the killing must have enraged that average person to point of not being able to control himself or herself during the killing.
Note: A heat of passion defense is available only if the intentional killing is immediately after discovery of the event that enraged the defendant. Also, the defendant must have killed the person that was the subject of the heat of passion. In other words, the defendant cannot use the heat of passion defense if he finds out his wife is cheating on him and thereafter kills another person not associated in any way to his wife or the person with whom she was cheating.
Diminished capacity means that there is some internal or external mental ingredient that did not allow the defendant to appreciate the wrongfulness of the act of intentionally killing another person. If the defendant has severe mental or cognitive impairment such that the defendant could not appreciate the very nature of the act of killing, or appreciate the difference between right and wrong, the defendant may have a defense of insanity (Defense of insanity is a complete defense to the crime of intentional murder and voluntary manslaughter); however, diminished capacity is not the equivalent of insanity in California. Diminished capacity does not rise to the level of an insanity defense but rather demonstrates that the defendant operated under some mental laboring such that the killing should be reduced from murder to manslaughter.
Sentence & Punishment for PC 192(a)
If found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, a defendant could face up to eleven years in state prison. Voluntary manslaughter is considered a strike under California's Three Strike Law. Other penalties include: restitution, fines, possible professional licensing consequences, and immigration consequences for non United States citizens.
Defense to voluntary manslaughter charges (PC 192(a)
The crime of voluntary manslaughter is not charged by the district attorney; it is a lesser included offense to the crime of murder. It is on the defense to demonstrate some evidence that the crime should be reduced to voluntary manslaughter down from murder. The most common way defense does this is to show evidence that the defendant acted in reasonable self-defense or defense of others.
Involuntary Manslaughter (PC 192(b))
The law on the crime of involuntary manslaughter is found at California Penal Code section 192(b). The definition of Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of another human being due to gross negligent conduct of the defendant.
The negligence standard for involuntary manslaughter charges is gross negligence, which is a higher standard than simple negligence. For example, speeding on the highway which leads to an accident causing an unintended death might lead to involuntary manslaughter charges if the speeding was considered to be grossly negligent under the circumstances.-
Sentence & Punishment for PC 192(b)
If found guilty of involuntary manslaughter the defendant may face up to four years in state prison. In addition, involuntary manslaughter is considered a strike under California Three Strikes Law. Other penalties include: restitution, fines, possible professional licensing consequences, and immigration consequences for non United States citizens.
Defense to Involuntary Manslaughter (PC 192(b))
Common defenses to the crime of involuntary manslaughter include: insufficient evidence to prove gross negligence, mistake of fact, coerced confessions, police officer misconduct in investigations, alibi (under a hit and run situation with identity of the driver at the time of the accident), and more.
Vehicular Manslaughter PC 191.5 & 192(c)
The laws on the crime of Vehicular Manslaughter are found at penal codes 191.5 & 192(c). Vehicular manslaughter crimes are classified under two categories: Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (PC 191.5), and Vehicular manslaughter without intoxication but with negligence (PC 192(c)).
Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unintentional killing of another person while the defendant was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or a combination of both drugs and alcohol (PC 191.5). Vehicular manslaughter with negligence is the unintentional killing of another person as a result of a person not using the ordinary care in driving as a reasonable person would under the same or similar circumstances.
Sentence & Punishment for PC 191.5 & 192(c)
PC 191.5(a) Felony vehicular manslaughter while DUI and gross negligence (Maximum sentence is 9 years in prison)
PC 191.5(b) Felony or misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter while DUI but without gross negligence (Maximum sentence is 4 years in prison for a felony conviction and 1 year in jail for a misdemeanor conviction).
PC 191.5(d) Felony vehicular manslaughter while DUI and a prior conviction for DUI (Maximum sentence is 15 years to life in prison).
PC 192(c)(1) Felony or misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and without DUI (Maximum sentence is 6 years in prison for a felony conviction and 1 year in jail for a misdemeanor conviction)
PC 192(c)(2) Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence (Maximum sentence is one year in jail).
Defenses to Vehicular Manslaughter
Common defenses to vehicular manslaughter include: insufficient evidence to prove blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for DUI, mistake of fact, insufficient evidence to prove negligence, coerced confessions, and more.
To learn more about the California crimes of voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicle manslaughter, including defenses to these crimes, contact criminal defense attorney Christopher Dorado today.
If you are charged with manslaughter, either voluntary manslaughter (PC 192(a), involuntary manslaughter (PC 192(b), or vehicular manslaughter (PC 191.5 & 192(c)), contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. We have successfully defended hundreds of misdemeanor and felony charges, including manslaughter charges. Our attorneys are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to answer all of your questions and discuss defense options. Call today! 909.913.3138
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Related Crimes to Manslaughter
- Vehicular Manslaughter DUI PC 191.5(a)
- Vehicular Manslaughter DUI W/Prior PC 191.5(c)
- Voluntary Manslaughter PC 192(a)
- Involuntary Manslaughter PC 192(b)
- Vessel Manslaughter DUI PC 192.5(a)
- Vessel Manslaughter Gross Negligence PC 192.5(c)