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Manslaughter -

       If there was no evidence of malice and the felony murder rule does not apply, then the person might be facing a charge of manslaughter. Manslaughter did not exist under the English common law. It was developedfrom statutes in order to provide for some penalty other than death. There are three basic types: involuntary, voluntary and vehicular.

Voluntary Manslaughter

       Voluntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion. A killing that would otherwise be murder is reduced to voluntary manslaughter if the defendant killed someone because of a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. This means that the defendant was provoked, and as a result of the provocation, the defendant acted rashly and under the influence of intense emotion that obscured his/her judgment, and the same provocation would have caused a person of average disposition to act rashly and without due deliberation. (See Calcrim Jury Instruction No. 570) The provocation may occur over a short or long period of time. Under California jury instructions, the Prosecutor has to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not kill someone because of a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.


       Another form of voluntary manslaughter would be if the killing occurred because a person acted in imperfect self-defense. This situation will often arise in a Battered Women's Syndrome case where the wife kills the husband because the wife believes that she was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury and the wife actually believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to protect oneself against the harm, but in fact, there was no immediate danger or the deadly force was not necessary. That is why it is called imperfect self-defense. If the danger was in fact imminent and if the deadly force was in fact necessary, then it would be a justifiable homicide based on self-defense.

       Punishment for voluntary manslaughter is either 3, 6 or 8 years in state prison.

Involuntary Manslaughter

       Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice and in the commission of a misdemeanor or a lawful act without due caution. In order to convict someone of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant had some legal duty owed to the decedent, the defendant failed to perform that legal duty, that the failure was criminally negligent and the failure caused the death . (See Calcrim Instruction No. 582) It is punishable by either 2, 3 or 4 years in state prison.

Vehicular Manslaughter

       Vehicular manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice, while driving a vehicle while committing a misdemeanor. It is punishable by county jail for up to 12 months or prison for up to 10 years.

- Written by , Attorney at Law





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