The drive to find the culprit in manslaughter cases leads to rushed investigations and the push by overzealous prosecutors to convict alleged manslaughter offenders. Such moves fail to consider the innocence of the defendant in the matter, and that is where The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney defense team comes in. We understand that a manslaughter conviction negatively impacts your life by imposing a prison sentence. You will also be required to part with hefty fines along with the prison sentence. Our mission is to prove your innocence in a matter that did get out of control, or that you were wrongfully accused.
California Manslaughter Laws
Manslaughter is defined as killing someone. Manslaughter’s description as a crime is derived from California law, Penal Code 192. Penal Code 192 (a) addresses voluntary manslaughter while Penal Code 192 (b) guides the prosecution of involuntary manslaughter. We will discuss both Penal Code 192 (a) and 192 (b) offering details of their definition, what the prosecutors must prove as well as the penalties you are likely to face if convicted.
Voluntary Manslaughter, Penal Code 192 (a)
Voluntary manslaughter, according to Code 192 PC, is the killing of another as a result of an emotion-filled reaction. Voluntary manslaughter cases arise from death as a consequence of a heat of passion, or a quarrel. Thus, these cases differ from murder. In murder, the prosecution needs to prove that there was malice afterthought or disregard for the life of another.
Malice afterthought in murder describes the willful intent to end another’s life with no regard for it. If the prosecution has no evidence to prove deliberate intent and malice afterthought, the murder charges will be reduced to voluntary manslaughter.
The heat of passion or sudden quarrel is a pivotal element in voluntary manslaughter cases. To prove them, it must be evident that:
- You were provoked
- The provocation led to an intense rush of emotions that impaired your judgment, or reasoning
- You acted while under this intense rush of emotions
- A similar provocation would cause an average person to act in the same manner. That is, react by emotion rather than reason.
The heat of passion, with regards to voluntary manslaughter, is any emotional situation, intense enough to cause an impulsive reaction. What the court will seek to see in your circumstances is if you had time to cool off before you acted. This period is critical as it determines if the resulting actions were rational or impulsive. If you had a reasonable time to cool off, murder charges would be preferred as opposed to voluntary manslaughter charges.
Penalties for Voluntary Manslaughter
Prosecutors pursue voluntary manslaughter charges as felonies. A conviction means you face three, six, or eleven years in prison. A strike will be added onto your record pursuant to the Three Strike Law. The judge takes into account any priors. Meaning, they will issue harsher sentencing for the Penal Code 192 (a) violation. The strike further adds to the sentencing you will receive in the future should you be convicted of a felony.
The judge may also require you to pay a fine not exceeding $10,000 over and above the jail sentence. They may also impose community service, counseling, or any other punishment the court deems fit. If you were a licensed firearm owner, a conviction would lead to the loss of your firearm.
Penalties to punish Penal Code 192 (a) offenders are harsh. A defense attorney is pivotal in seeking their reduction, or elimination. The defense strategy they use against the circumstances of your case determines what penalties will be imposed.
Involuntary Manslaughter, Penal Code 192 (b)
While voluntary manslaughter is killing of another as a consequence of an emotional situation, involuntary manslaughter is unintentional murder. You may have killed another while committing a crime or while going on with lawful businesses, and a loss of caution resulted in the death of another. The prosecution must demonstrate the following to prove your guilt for a Code 192 (b) PC violation.
- You committed a misdemeanor, infraction, or a lawful act carried out unlawfully - The crime, in this case, is any violation other than a felony. This, therefore, means that you will be convicted of murder if the offense is inherently dangerous or has the possibility of being handled as a felony.
- You were criminally negligent when committing the crime – Criminal negligence arises in situations where you act in a manner that results in the possibility of significant bodily injury or death. Furthermore, a reasonable individual would have known of the inherent danger your actions posed.
- Your actions resulted in the death of another – Of interest to the jury is the cause of death. It, therefore, follows that you will be held liable for involuntary manslaughter if your deeds led to the direct, probable, or natural death of another.
Penal Code 192 also takes into account situations where death occurs when another performs a legal duty of care. The following must be evident to prove an involuntary manslaughter case against you:
- You had a legal of care owed to the victim but failed to perform it
- Your failure amounted to criminal negligence
- The death of the victim was a direct consequence of your negligence
The legal duty of care is a matter determined by a judge and not the jury. Moreover, such a legal obligation is evident, especially in familial setups such as parent-child and guardian-child relationships. Two people who are in a relationship are also assumed to have a responsibility for each other and, therefore, their relationship will be considered.
Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter
Violations of Penal Code 192 (b) are felonies. The offense is punishable by formal probation that lasts between three and five years. Jail time will be imposed with the judge requiring you to serve a two, three, or four-year prison term. Furthermore, a fine not exceeding $10,000 will be imposed over and above the sentence.
Most families of the involuntary manslaughter victims seek damages through civil lawsuits. Most of them result in a civil trial to compensate them for their loss. It is also worth noting that the use of a dangerous weapon or a firearm is an aggravating factor. Such actions are punishable by adding a strike in your records.
Vehicular Manslaughter, Penal Code 192 (c)
Vehicular manslaughter is the killing of another through negligent driving. Penal code 192 (c) considers all accidental killing of another through road accidents. It is expected that anyone operating a vehicle should be careful in their driving, thus ensuring their safety. It is also a legal requirement that drivers ensure that the care of other motorists, including their passengers, is not compromised. Therefore, any actions that lead to an accident that robs another their life are considered gross negligence.
In vehicular manslaughter cases, the prosecution needs to prove the following to have you convicted of the crime:
- You committed a traffic violation or a lawful act that could cause death all while driving
- Your driving was a danger to other motorists. Thus, your actions amounted to ordinary or gross negligence
- Your actions resulted in the death of another
The aspects of a vehicular manslaughter case are pivotal in determining your guilt. It is, therefore, essential to break these elements down further to comprehend what they entail.
Committing a Traffic Violation or a Lawful Act that Could Result in Death
Traffic violations could be either an infraction or a misdemeanor. If the offense is a felony, your charges will change from vehicular manslaughter to murder. You could also have been driving following the traffic rules, but a crash ensued that killed another. An example would be talking on the phone while using your hands-free device. In the process, you rammed into another car and killed the other motorist.
Gross Negligence or Ordinary Negligence
Gross negligence refers to an error in judgment, carelessness, or inattentiveness. The following elements prove a driver’s actions as negligent:
- The driver was reckless, and their driving resulted in grave bodily injury or the death of another
- A reasonable person, given similar circumstances, would have known that the driver’s actions were risky
The standard of making a judgment while driving is that of a reasonable person. The deviation from this standard is what amounts to gross negligence.
Ordinary negligence occurs when you fail to exercise caution when driving. It is expected of every driver to use reasonable care when driving. Failure to do so sums up to negligence.
Causing the Demise of Another
Your guilt in the case is only proven if the prosecution links the demise of another to your actions. That is, had it not been for your negligent driving, there would be no death. Therefore, the demise could have been a direct, probable, or natural result of the accident. It also follows that your negligent actions are not the only cause of death. However, they played a significant role.
Section 3 of the Penal Code 192 (c) introduces vehicular manslaughter for financial gain. It is the accidental killing of another while deliberately causing a car crash to defraud an insurance provider. Specific aspects need to be proven in your case to determine your guilt under vehicular manslaughter for financial gain. They include:
- Operating a vehicle to cause a collision, or participate in one
- Knowing that the crash aimed to seek financial benefit through a false insurance claim
- You intended to defraud your insurance provider or another person
- the accident caused the death of another
Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter
Vehicular manslaughter penalties are pegged on the circumstances in your case. A prosecutor may charge you either with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, or vehicular manslaughter for monetary gain.
If you are charged with vehicular manslaughter and gross negligence is a factor, the prosecutor may handle the case as a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor charges carry a jail term of no more than a year and summary probation. You will also be required to pay a fine of no more than $1,000. Felony charges carry a prison term of two, four, or six years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000. You could also serve formal probation.
Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges are punishable by summary probation, a sentence of one year behind bars, and a fine not exceeding $1,000. Those convicted of vehicular manslaughter for monetary gain charges, on the other hand, face felony penalties. These include a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or a jail term of four, six, or ten years in prison.
Any conviction of a vehicular manslaughter charge puts you at risk of a license suspension or revocation as directed by the courts. However, the DMV will revoke your license if convicted with vehicular manslaughter for monetary gain or gross negligence. Your driving permit will remain revoked for three years.
Legal Defenses in Manslaughter Cases
Facts of a case inform the decision of which legal defense to use in a vehicular manslaughter case. A criminal defense attorney can use either of the following defense arguments in your case.
Insanity pleas are often used in voluntary manslaughter cases. However, it must be clear to the court that you did not comprehend your actions at the time of the killing, and that you cannot make a distinction between what is right or wrong.
Imperfect Self-Defense, Self-Defense or Defense of others
An imperfect self-defense argument is acceptable in the instance that your actions were aimed at protecting you or another from a situation you believed was dangerous. The danger you or another yo thought was that of being killed or suffering great bodily harm. Your attorney will argue that the force you used was reasonable, though it resulted in death. This argument does not absolve you of liability. You stand accused of the killing, but your sentence will be reduced.
A self-defense argument, on the other hand, justifies you killing another to protect yourself or another from danger. You must prove that you or the other victim was at risk of being killed or suffer grave bodily injury. In this case, the steps you took, in the eyes of the law, were reasonable.
Imperfect self-defense differs from self-defense arguments in that in self-defense, the threat was inevitable. However, in imperfect self-defense arguments, you believed that there was a threat.
The Killing was an Accident
Accidents do happen in emotional situations, and sadly, they can result in death. Your attorney will have to demonstrate that:
- You were not negligent in your actions at the time of the accident
- You had no intention to kill
- You were going on with a lawful undertaking at the time of the accident
You are a Victim of Wrongful Arrest or False Accusation
Some individuals have been wrongfully convicted of manslaughter as a result of false accusations. In such situations, the victim’s family accuses the defendant of killing their loved ones, and the resulting investigations are skewed to prove your guilt. If you are a victim of such actions born of revenge, hate, and anger, you could use this defense.
Insufficient Evidence to Prove Your Culpability
It is common for investigators to rush through an investigation because of the pressure to wind up their work. Thus, there may be insufficient evidence to prove your culpability. Your attorney will also cross-examine the witnesses to determine the accurate account of the manslaughter matter. If the investigations were rushed, the witnesses would discount the facts in the case to prove your innocence. Experienced defense attorneys also conduct independent investigations to establish the actual situation in the matter. This move will unearth any inconsistencies with the investigations done by the police officers, thereby questioning the evidence brought forth against you.
You Actions do not Amount to Negligence
Driving requires quick decisions. Some of those decisions may end up in a crash, but they were made with the right intentions. Your attorney should be able to argue this matter out if you are facing vehicular manslaughter charges. Your actions may also have been of ordinary negligence and not gross negligence as may be put across by the prosecution.
Offenses Related to Manslaughter Charges
Prosecutors in plea bargain negotiations, use the crimes enumerated below to get a guilty plea. They may decide to add the charges below to your Penal Code 192 violations or ask you to plead guilty to these charges to get lesser sentencing. This move is consistent with them seeking more convictions. The charges are also an opportunity for you to get lesser penalties if convicted. Your attorney will advise you on the best way forward.
Watson Murder or DUI Murder
DUI murder charges are introduced if you kill another while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The charge is a second-degree murder charge under Penal Code 187. DUI murder charges assume that you acted with implied malice. That is, you intentionally committed the act whose natural consequence was death. Furthermore, the prosecution will seek to prove that your actions were with disregard to human life.
If convicted, you may spend 15 years-to-life in prison. The judge may also impose a fine to the tune of $10,000, and a strike on your record.
Attempted murder is defined under Penal Code 664/187. The law describes the act as when you plan to kill another, make the necessary steps to actualize your plan, but your victim fails to die. The steps you took were beyond planning. You went ahead to ensure that you killed your victim. Furthermore, your intentions to kill need to be supported by evidence. Therefore, maiming your victim or causing an injury is not enough. Upper body injuries, the prosecution will argue that you intended to kill your victim. Conversely, the defense will use injuries to the lower half of the victim’s body as evidence you intended to harm and not kill the victim. The circumstances are for the jury to decide.
While it is difficult proving intent in attempted murder cases, prosecutors do still introduce these charges. With your attorney’s assistance, you will not need to face a life sentence. Further, you avoid paying a fine of almost $10,000 exclusive of victim restitution sums. If convicted, a strike will be added to your records.
Prosecutors pursue murder charges if they are convinced they have sufficient evidence against you. At times, they may threaten to introduce these charges to persuade you to plead guilty to manslaughter charges. They too can drop the manslaughter case and seek a murder trial. An attorney should help avoid or defend you in such matters.
Murder is a violation of Penal Code 187. The statute defines the crime as the illegal killing of another with malice afterthought. The “another” in this case is a human being or a fetus. Murder charges are pursued either as murder in the first or second degree. Further, you risk facing capital murder charges if the victim was a public official. The official’s list includes a police officer, an elected official, firefighter, or an officer of the court.
First-degree murders are punishable with a 25 years-to-life prison sentence. A second-degree murder conviction will have you spend 15 years-to-life in jail. Capital murder is too punishable by life imprisonment.
Find A Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Near Me
Your story in a manslaughter case deserves to be told. Your account of the events leading to accidental death matters and deserves to be heard. By doing so, you may have a reduced sentence or have the case dropped altogether. Life in prison and paying hefty fines is not an option you want to make. All of the above should inform your decision about hiring an attorney.
Our team at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney is ready to take on your case, make an assessment, and advise you on the best way forward. The principle of innocence formulates our mandate. Call our team today at 310-564-2605.