California takes everything related to murder or killing seriously. In that case, California legislatures have established several laws that hold different people accused of killing liable for their actions. One of these laws deals with involuntary manslaughter. Anyone prosecuted for involuntary murder risks a jail sentence for a maximum of four years and a maximum fine of ten thousand dollars. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will offer the necessary legal services to anyone facing allegations of involuntary manslaughter in Los Angeles, CA.
Definition of Involuntary Manslaughter According to California Laws
Everything to do with Involuntary manslaughter in California is defined under PC 192(b). When prosecuting an offender under this statute, there are specific aspects a prosecutor should prove. These aspects are referred to as the elements of the crime and are as follows:
- You were involved in a California offense that is not inherently a felony (infraction or misdemeanor), or a legal action that is done unlawfully
- The crime that you committed was done with criminal negligence
- Your actions led to the death of another person
It is hard to understand the above-stated elements unless they are explained in detail. Below is a detailed explanation of the elements of the crime that a prosecutor should demonstrate in court.
California Offense or a Legal Action Done Unlawfully
California's involuntary manslaughter comes along when a defendant is involved in doing something wrong. This means that if the manslaughter results from a pure freak accident, it will not count as involuntary manslaughter. The wrongful actions that count in this offense include:
- California infractions. This includes low-level crimes that carry fines as the only potential punishment. An example of such an infraction in California include disturbing the peace or traffic violation
- California misdemeanors
- A California low-level felony
- An action that does not count as a crime- although it is done unlawfully
Please note, if someone dies while carrying out a felony or an inherently dangerous crime, this will not count as involuntary manslaughter. Instead, you will be charged under the felony-murder rule.
Since involuntary manslaughter involves infractions and misdemeanors, it is crucial to note the possible crimes that might lead to the involuntary manslaughter. These types of infractions and misdemeanors involve a wide range of offenses, which include:
- Domestic battery under Penal Code 243(e)(1)
- Petty theft under Penal Code 484 and 488
- Disorderly conduct under Penal Code 647
- Riot under Penal Code 404
- Assault and battery under Penal Code 240 and 242
- Drug possession under HS 11350
- Under the influence of a controlled substance under HS 11550
- Trespassing under Penal Code 602
- Violation of a protection order under Penal Code 273.6
- Shoplifting under Penal Code 495.5
Your prosecutor should be able to prove that your actions were out of criminal negligence, whether you were charged for another crime or lawful action. This means that criminal negligence does not involve mere carelessness, mistaken judgment, or inattention. It involves acting recklessly to the point of creating a high possibility of death or significant bodily injury. In contrast, a reasonable person would know that such actions would lead to such risks.
Led to the Death of Another Person
Your actions are considered to have led to the death of another person if they led to the probable, direct, and natural death. Also, your actions cannot be associated with another person's death if the death did not occur due to the actions. In that case, a rational person should realize that death would happen.
Please note that hiding an accidental death is also considered an offense in California, but is charged differently from involuntary manslaughter.
Involuntary Manslaughter Associated With Legal Duty
When involuntary manslaughter occurs when the defendant fails to undertake a legal duty, any prosecution that results falls under PC 192(b). However, it has a different legal description compared to manslaughter, which results from an infraction or misdemeanor. The elements of manslaughter that result from failing to carry out legal duty are as follows:
- You were legally obligated to the victim
- You did not honor your legal duty
- Your failure to perform the legal responsibility was an act of criminal negligent
- Your failure led to the death of the victim
Having a legal duty to another person is a matter that has to be decided by the jury or the judge during an involuntary manslaughter court trial. Examples of relationship that explains a legal obligation include:
- A parent-child relationship
- A relationship between a paid caretaker and the person paid to take care of
- A relation between two people who have presumed responsibility for each other
Please note, explaining legal duty can be complicated. For instance, the mere act of showing kindness to a stranger who dies within your vicinity can be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter.
Comparison of Homicide, Murder, Voluntary Manslaughter, and Involuntary Manslaughter
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to explaining terms such as homicide, murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. It is crucial to understand these terms to avoid using some terms in place of others.
Homicide is explained as the killing of one person by another. It can be legal or illegal. For instance, soldiers commit homicide in battle without committing any crime. However, if you kill someone else without any legal basis, this might be considered an offense.
Murder is a killing that involves malice afterthought. This does not imply that murder is a malicious killing. “Malice afterthought” only explains that the killing was unjustified. It consists of the intention to kill or, at a minimum, doing something with gross recklessness to the point of causing another person's death. Predetermination does not involve a long term killing plan. Planning or designing the cause of the death of another person is enough to be explained as murder.
Manslaughter is categorized into voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter involves the killing of another person after extreme provocation or while under heat of passion. It does not include the intention to kill, but rather the intention to do something else.
Finally, involuntary manslaughter involves an action that is done out of recklessness or negligence, leading to the death of another person. Vehicular manslaughter is also considered as involuntary manslaughter, but its charges are under a different California statute.
Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter in California
Involuntary manslaughter is considered a California felony. An offender can face potential punishments, such as:
- Formal or felony probation
- Two, three, or four years in the State prison
- A maximum fine of $10,000
Punishment Under Penal Code 1170(h)
You can serve your sentence for involuntary manslaughter in county jail under the California realignment legislation rather than serve in the state prison. In most cases, an offender is punished with 2,3,4 years in county jail or an alternative sentence. With the alternative penalty, the court or jury might allow you to serve your sentence partially in county jail and expect you to serve the remaining sentence under the supervision of a county probation official.
Civil Consequences Under California Code of Civil Procedure 3777.60 – 377.62
Other than the criminal punishment that results from Penal Code 192(b), an offender might face civil consequences by being charged with wrongful death. A wrongful death suit can be brought by a family member of a victim that died out of your unlawful actions or negligence. In case you are found liable for the wrongful death of another person, you might end up paying a large monetary sum as damages. These civil consequences might be imposed on you in addition to the criminal punishment and fines related to the involuntary manslaughter.
Other Possible Consequences for California Involuntary Manslaughter
Apart from substantial fines and possible jail time, you might end up losing some privileges if you are convicted for California manslaughter. For instance, you might lose your right to own or purchase a firearm. You might also be charged under California Penal Code 12021 if you were found to be in control of a gun.
Involuntary manslaughter in California might also make you lose your state license. California licensing agencies have the authority of taking away licensing privileges to anyone convicted of felony crimes such as involuntary manslaughter.
Finally, if your actions related to involuntary manslaughter involved the use of a dangerous weapon or firearm, you might end up with a "strike" under California's Three-Strike Law.
Legal Defenses for Involuntary Manslaughter
Once you have been arrested for involuntary manslaughter, this does not mean that you will get an automatic sentence. You have the opportunity to protect your rights by hiring a professional criminal attorney. Your attorney will employ legal arguments to try winning your case or have the court dismiss the case. Not all legal defenses can help you achieve your expectations. Your attorney should select relevant arguments that would help in disapproving of the elements presented by the prosecutor. Here are a few legal defenses that your attorney might consider in your involuntary manslaughter allegations.
To successfully use self-defense as your legal argument, you must prove that your killing resulted from the use of reasonable force to resist reasonable fear of death or bodily harm. The extent of force that you use in self-defense should be proportional to the perceived threat, and the threat should be something that places you in fear of death or great bodily harm. Therefore, mere insults would not suffice as evidence of the threats imposed on you.
Defense of Others
The same self-defense principles apply in defense for others, but in this case, another person is perceived to be at risk of death or bodily injury. This means that you must prove that your actions were timely and proportional to the threats that another person faced.
All cases involving involuntary manslaughter are somehow accidental since they include circumstances where the defendants had no intention to kill someone. However, if the defendant did not act with criminal negligence, he or she can use accidental killing as a legal defense for the charges.
If you intend to use this legal defense, you should prove that you did not have criminal intent to harm, your actions were not out of criminal negligence, and you were engaged in a legal action during the accident.
Pleading insanity can be a suitable way to argue yourself out of the involuntary manslaughter charges presented against you. However, you should succeed in undertaking the M'Naghten test for insanity. The test would prove that you have a mental disorder such as bipolar disorder. Such mental disorders demonstrate that you were not aware of your wrongful action, or you could not understand whether your actions were right or wrong.
You can rely on this argument if you believe that the prosecution charged you for involuntary manslaughter, whereas you are not the actual perpetrator. The best way to assert this legal argument is by using alibi to support your evidence to prove that someone else was involved in the offense. When showing that someone else was involved, you should have witnesses, receipts, and camera footage that would support your argument.
Sometimes prosecutors buy into the police accounts without establishing whether the evidence presented is sufficient enough. Therefore, there might be some loopholes in the evidence presented against you, making the whole prosecution process questionable. If your attorney can manage to highlight these loopholes, this would be a suitable ground to have your case dismissed by the court.
You might be falsely accused of committing involuntary manslaughter, especially if someone has something against you. You can also be falsely accused when someone might falsely accuse you of hiding his or her role in the killing of another person.
In that case, you and your attorney should establish that the allegations presented against were out of false accusation to use this legal argument successfully.
Sometimes defendants find themselves in a situation where they have to be involved in crime out of entrapment. These situations occur when the defendant has been threatened and could not avoid participating in the alleged crime. If you intend to rely on this argument, you must prove that your actions were out of entrapment, and you could not reasonably manage to resist the situation you were in.
Coercion is a form of entrapment that involves a law enforcement officer. A rogue police officer might force you into involuntary manslaughter to get back to you or cover a crime. In most cases, they use their authority to threaten you or your family, forcing you into the offense.
You must prove that a police officer was involved in coercing you into the crime, and you had no option to avoid committing the crime. It might be complicated to prove that a police officer was involved in coercing you into a crime, but with a thorough investigation, you can successfully rely on this argument.
Police misconduct is a definition of breach of your constitutional rights during investigation or arrest. Most of these situations occur when the arresting officer fails to read the Miranda rights and when the investigation team illegally searches and seizures your property. Proving these facts does not necessarily mean that your case will be dismissed, but will have your case reduced.
Other forms of police misconduct that you might rely on include:
- Planting evidence
- Unnecessary force to force you into cooperation
- Lying in court
Intoxication does not necessarily work as a way to justify any criminal actions. However, it can work as a legal defense if your intoxication was involuntary. Involuntary intoxication usually occurs when the defendant was drugged and ended up in the involuntary manslaughter. In this case, the court will assume that your actions were out of your control and knowledge.
Crimes Related to Involuntary Manslaughter
Several crimes are associated with California's involuntary manslaughter. These offenses are prosecuted along with, apart from, or share the same penalties with involuntary manslaughter. Here is a detailed view of these crimes.
Murder: Penal Code 187
Everything to do with California murder crimes is highlighted under PC 187. This statute defines murder as the unlawful killing of a person or fetus with malice afterthought. Malice afterthought usually distinguishes murder from involuntary manslaughter. It means that the killer had a wanton disregard of human life, and his or her actions involved a high possibility of death.
California's murder is divided into three categories. These categories include first-degree murder, capital murder, and second-degree murder.
First-degree murder carries twenty-five years-to-life in state prison. If the crime involves hate crime, the potential penalty includes life without the possibility of parole.
Capital murder is the most severe type of homicide charge in California. The possible punishment includes a death penalty with the choice of a lethal dose of gas or a substance and life in prison without parole.
Second-degree carries fifteen years to life state prison. However, different aggravating circumstances might enhance the sentence that an offender might face.
California murder laws can also subject a defendant to:
- Addition of ten, twenty or twenty-five years to life in the state prison if the accused
- used a firearm during murder
- Victim restitution
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Losing gun right
- Addition of a strike according to California's Three-Strike Law
Voluntary Manslaughter: PC 192(a)
Under PC 192a, voluntary manslaughter is defined as killing another person during a sudden disagreement or as a result of passion or based on an honest but unreasonable belief that you needed to defend yourself.
If you are convicted with voluntary manslaughter, the potential penalty includes three, six, or eleven years in the state prison. Voluntary manslaughter conviction might also lead to the following punishment.
- Inclusion of a strike in your criminal record according to California's Three-Strike Law
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Losing your gun rights
- Community services
- Mandatory attendance of a counseling service such as anger management classes
- Any condition that the court reasonably believes is related to the circumstances related to your case
Involuntary Vehicular Manslaughter: Penal Code 192(c)
Under PC 192(c), vehicular manslaughter is defined as causing the death of another person while driving, by negligently committing an unlawful act that is not a California felony, or a legal action that might lead to death.
The penalties for involuntary vehicular manslaughter in California depends on whether your actions were out of gross or ordinary negligence.
If your actions were out of gross negligence, PC 192(c) becomes a wobbler. In that case, you might be charged with a felony or misdemeanor. The maximum sentence that you can get for a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is one year in county jail. The maximum penalty for a felony conviction would be six years in state prison.
If your actions were out of an ordinary sentence, the potential penalty would be one year in the county jail.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated: PC 191.5
Vehicular manslaughter while under the influence puts you eligible for sentencing under PC 191.5(a): vehicular gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or PC 191.5(b): vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
These offenses have a severe penalty compared with ordinary vehicular manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter. If one commits the offense with extreme negligence, the offense is considered a felony and carries a potential state prison sentence for four, six, or ten years.
If the crime is committed out of ordinary negligence, the offense becomes a wobbler. Its felony sentence carries a maximum of four years in the state prison.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is committed to serving the community within Los Angeles with the most credible legal services. If you face criminal charges for involuntary manslaughter, you should seek help from our professional defense team to increase the possibility of winning your case. Contact us anytime at 310-564-2605 for a free consultation with our attorneys.