What is the difference between manslaughter and murder?
Simply put, the act of killing another person with malice is murder and carries a very serious charge. On the other hand, manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a person(s) without malice or prior planning.
The prosecution thoroughly reviews the specific circumstances surrounding a murder before deciding which charge is to be applied. California law mandates a maximum of only 11 years in prison in the case the assailant is convicted of manslaughter.
If you or someone you know has been accused of manslaughter, contact a California criminal defense attorney immediately. Early intervention by experienced attorneys can have a favorable impact on the outcome of your case.
The Crime of Manslaughter in California
The crime of manslaughter is described under PC Section 192. There are three forms of manslaughter in California. Let’s break them down:
Voluntary manslaughter is the intentional killing of another person in the ‘heat of the moment’ due to provocation and in a matter of minutes. The most typical example of this type of manslaughter involves a spouse who, after finding their partner in bed with another, kills either their partner, romantic interloper, or both.
This type of killing acts without the significant lapse of time – in other words, the accused person did not spend several hours plotting the murder and acted on those plans several weeks later.
According to the California Penal Code, any person convicted of voluntary manslaughter will be punishable by up to 3, 6, or 11 years in person. The crime can also trigger California’s three-strikes laws where the defendant can be sentenced to 25 years to life if they are convicted of three or more violent felonies.
Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of someone due to recklessness. If the actions that led to a person’s death were illegal but not deliberate, this could be considered involuntary manslaughter.
Another example of involuntary manslaughter is when a person discharges a firearm but did not aim it or intend to hurt another person, yet the projectile somehow managed to hit a person and kill them. It may also include the killing of someone without committing a nonviolent crime, such as prescribing dangerous drugs. A person convicted of this charge can face two to four years in prison and may be subjected to sentencing enhancements.
In California, a person may be charged with vehicular manslaughter if they cause the death of another person in a car accident. In order for this to happen, the defendant must have been doing illegal activities behind the wheel. For instance, hitting a person during high-speed chases could fall under vehicular manslaughter.
Vehicular manslaughter can fall under several categories including:
- Killing another person while driving a vehicle with gross negligence
- Killing another person while driving a vehicle, but without gross negligence
- Killing another person while driving a vehicle when under the influence
- And other examples
If, however, it is proven that the driver was acting with malice to kill another person, they may be charged with murder.
It is worth noting that vehicular manslaughter is a ‘wobbler’ in California, which means that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances and the defendant’s history. Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence carries a sentence of up to six years with fines of around $10,000.
Other types of vehicular manslaughter carry a maximum sentence of one year in county jail with fines of up to $1,000.
Defenses Against Manslaughter Charges
Cases of manslaughter are always tragic. They almost always occur due to a temporary lapse in judgment or a brief slip of attention. The steep penalties of manslaughter can make the situation even worse. Your defense attorney will review the facts of your case and the charges against you.
It is important to compile as much information and evidence as possible to build a strong defense. If you or someone you love was accused of manslaughter in California, contact the Justice Firm today. Our experienced attorneys represent defendants accused of serious crimes and fight to get the cases dismissed or penalties reductions.
Make sure to schedule your free legal consultation today and discuss your options for defending against the charges.