Homicide: Manslaughter

Sacramento Criminal Defense Attorneys Explains Manslaughter

Homicide is the unlawful killing of another person and may result in a criminal charge of murder or manslaughter. Murder is when an individual knowingly intends, plans, or decides to kill another person. This may be demonstrated by proving a plan to engage in or participation in reckless or dangerous activity that leads to the death of another person. Manslaughter is the killing of another person without malicious intent, meaning the planning or intention present in murder charges cannot be shown. If you have been charged of manslaughter, make sure to contact Sacramento criminal defense attorneys immediately for legal representation.

Types of Manslaughter

The state of California characterized three types of manslaughter:

  • Voluntary
  • Involuntary
  • Vehicular

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is defined as the taking of a life while in the heat of passion, for example during an argument. The tempestuous circumstances surrounding the event in question establish a lack of malicious planning or intent, as is required for a murder charge. Heat of passion is described as an intense or emotional incident that causes a person to act irrationally. If there was time for a person to cool off before the killing occurred, it could be considered premeditated murder instead of
manslaughter. To be considered voluntary manslaughter, the following must be established:

  • Provocation occurred
  • As a result of the provocation, the defendant acted rashly as his or her judgement was obscured by intense emotion
  • The provocation in question would have caused an average person to act rashly

The prosecution must prove the defendant had the intention to inflict severe bodily harm or death to successfully establish a case of voluntary manslaughter.

Provocation may include:

  • Mutual combat
  • The killing of a family member or close friend
  • Adultery

Penalties may include but are not limited to:

  • Three, six, or eleven years in state prison
  • A potential strike that contributes to California’s three strikes law, which could increase penalties for this conviction or future convictions
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • The loss of the right to own or possess a firearm
  • Community service or labor
  • Counseling

Being charged for manslaughter will have serious repercussions on your life in many ways. Speak to Sacramento criminal defense attorneys if you are facing such a life-altering charge.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter consists of the killing of another individual on accident or without intent while committing a crime that is not inherently dangerous or while committing a lawful act that may result in death. This crime does not require the intent to kill or harm another person.

In the state of California, the elements of involuntary manslaughter include::

  • The defendant committing a California misdemeanor, a crime that is not an inherently dangerous felony, or a lawful act done in an unlawful manner
  • The defendant committing a crime with “criminal negligence”
  • The defendant’s behavior caused another person’s death

If any of the above elements cannot be proven, this weakens the prosecution’s case. A very popular example of involuntary manslaughter is the case of Michael Jackson’s doctor, who was convicted of accidentally killing the pop star by prescribing strong anesthetic medications.

Penalties may include:

  • Two, three, or four years in jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter is very similar to involuntary manslaughter, but a vehicle must be involved in the crime. When vehicular manslaughter is committed with “ordinary” negligence, it is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in county jail.

When vehicular manslaughter is committed with “gross” negligence, similar to what is required for involuntary manslaughter, it is considered gross vehicular manslaughter and may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and the prosecutor’s discretion.

Penalties for a felony charge may include two, four, or six years in state prison. Contact your local Sacramento criminal defense attorneys for legal consultation.


Potential defenses against manslaughter charges are similar to those that are used in homicide cases. The most common defenses are as follows:

  • Innocence – Not committing the crime in the first place is the best defense if feasible. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime in question. If the defendant is able to provide an alibi or refute any of the evidence and claims made by the prosecution, this can put the prosecution’s case in doubt.
  • Self-defense – This defense only works for voluntary manslaughter, as involuntary and vehicular manslaughter are accidental in nature. If acting in self-defense or in the defense of others to prevent death, great bodily injury, rape, robbery, or any other “forcible and atrocious” crime, manslaughter may be defensible.
  • Insanity – When defendants can be deemed legally insane, the justice system will not hold them accountable for their actions. Typically, the insanity defense is based on the defendant’s inability to understand the nature of their actions or to distinguish between right and wrong.
    Manslaughter charges are very serious and should not be dealt with alone. It’s important to seek experienced legal representation from experienced Sacramento criminal defense attorneys with the knowledge and passion to defend your case effectively.

Call Your Local Sacramento Criminal Defense Attorneys if You’ve Been Charged for Manslaughter

Allaye Chan Law has years of experience representing clients who have been arrested and charged for a crime including manslaughter. Give us a call at (916) 446-4400 to speak to experienced and dedicated Sacramento criminal defense attorneys.