Manslaughter charges are incredibly serious and easily misunderstood. A conviction will affect you and your family for the rest of your lives. Once you have paid your debt to society you will be forced to live as a convicted felon and all that goes with that label.
A manslaughter conviction will negatively affect your ability to care for your family, secure a job and bring in money, and even find a decent place to live.
Manslaughter is one of the most misunderstood of violent crimes. When someone is killed many people consider it murder but that’s not necessarily the case under the law.
How does the crime of manslaughter differ from murder? What are the different types of manslaughter? There are important questions to ask if you are facing criminal charges for your role in the death of another person.
Definition of Manslaughter
In California, manslaughter is legally defined in Penal Code 192 PC as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” This basically covers any unlawful killing that is carried out without
- planning, or
- pre-conceived intent.
Generally speaking, manslaughter is a “lesser-included offense” of murder.
This means that the crime of murder can be reduced to a charge of manslaughter if certain factors are present.
Manslaughter is a serious crime, but carries less severe criminal penalties that crimes of intentional murder.
In San Diego there are three different types of manslaughter.
- voluntary manslaughter,
- involuntary manslaughter, and
- vehicular manslaughter.
Voluntary manslaughter, as defined in Penal Code 192(a) PC, occurs when you kill another person in a sudden heat of passion or quarrel. Many times murder charges will be reduced to voluntary manslaughter when it can be proven that you were provoked and acting in a heat of passion.
You can face criminal charges for voluntary manslaughter if it can be proven that you:
- Were provoked,
- Acted rashly and under the influence of intense emotion that affected your judgment; and
- The provocation would have caused a reasonable person to act similarly.
For example, let’s say you came home and found your spouse in bed with another person.
You become so overwhelmed with emotion that you begin to fight with this other person, and kill them in a bout of rage.
In this situation, you could face charges for murder or manslaughter. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Pedro Bernal would work to secure a reduction in charges to manslaughter since you did not act with malice aforethought, but rather the killing occurred in a fit of rage.
Voluntary manslaughter requires that you act under the “direct and immediate influence” of the provocation.
Let’s say you came home and found your spouse in bed with another person but rather than confronting them immediately, you went for a drive and then confronted the person later and then killed them. If there is a cooling off period between the provocation and the unlawful killing, you will face murder charges for your act.
Involuntary manslaughter, as defined in California Penal Code 192(b) PC, occurs when you commit a crime (other than a felony) and unintentionally kill another person. The crime of murder can be reduced to involuntary manslaughter if:
- You committed an unlawful act or crime;
- You acted in a reckless way that created a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and
- Your actions caused the death of another person.
For example, let’s say that you get into a fight with your spouse. You grab your gun to threaten them and it accidentally goes off.
You can be charged with involuntary manslaughter because you did not intend to kill your spouse, but acted in an unlawful way that created a great risk of harm or death.
Vehicular manslaughter, as defined in California Penal Code 192(c) PC, occurs when you unlawfully cause another person’s death while negligently operating a motor vehicle.
Examples of vehicular manslaughter include causing the death of another person because you were:
- Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol;
- Driving while talking on the phone or texting;
- Drag racing; or
- Causing an accident for fraudulent financial gain.
Penalties for Manslaughter in San Diego
The criminal penalties you face will depend on the type of manslaughter charges you are facing.
Each type of manslaughter charge is different and carry distinct penalties.
Voluntary Manslaughter: Voluntary manslaughter is a felony offense in California, punishable by 3, 6, or 11 years in prison.
Involuntary Manslaughter: Involuntary manslaughter is a felony offense in California, punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in prison.
Vehicular Manslaughter: Vehicular manslaughter can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense in California.
The specific charges you face will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.
Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter is punishable by one year in a San Diego County jail. Felony vehicular manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in a California state prison.
In addition to time in a San Diego County jail or California state prison, a criminal sentence for a manslaughter conviction may also include:
- Fines of up to $10,000;
- Revocation of gun ownership rights;
- Restraining orders; and
- Mandatory counseling.
Defenses to Manslaughter
When you face criminal charges in San Diego you have the right to assert any argument that can explain, excuse, and/or justify your alleged behavior.
Successfully arguing a legal defense will make it more difficult for the state to build a strong case against you.
This can help your attorney secure a reduction or dismissal of the charges in your case.
Defenses that may be helpful in your San Diego manslaughter case include:
- You acted in self defense;
- You did not act negligently or recklessly;
- The death was an accident; or
- You have been falsely accused or mistakenly identified.
You can also fight criminal charges if your Constitutional rights have been violated.
Defense Attorney Pedro Bernal has both prosecuted and defended manslaughter cases. If his team determines that you have been the victim of an illegal search or unlawful arrest he will petition the court to throw out any tainted evidence.
Without evidence to support its case, the prosecution may be forced to offer a plea deal or throw dismiss the charges against you altogether.