Orange County Criminal Lawyer has assisted defendants facing voluntary manslaughter charges to possibly reduce the penalties or dismiss the allegations. Our attorneys understand the effect of a criminal record on your reputation. Hence, we work relentlessly and selflessly to defend our clients against any criminal charge by all means. Reach out to us as soon as possible if you are facing voluntary manslaughter charges or any other violent crimes.
Voluntary Manslaughter Overview
A prosecutor will typically assess a murder charge, also known as homicide, in any case involving killing another person. According to California penal code 187, murder is an unlawful killing of another person or fetus with malevolence forethoughts. Having malevolence or malice forethoughts means that the defendant has no regard for human life. Typically murder cases can lead to a very long conviction sentence of about 25 years or life imprisonment in the state prison.
Victims of murder cases fight the charges with the help of a criminal defense attorney to reduce the murder charge to a less severe murder offense like manslaughter. Unlike in a murder charge where the defendant must have malice forethoughts to be guilty, in manslaughter, the defendant does not have malice thoughts to kill the victim even if it was intentional. There are three forms of manslaughter, that is:
In this article, we will go into detail on voluntary manslaughter crime. California penal code 192 describes voluntary manslaughter as killing another person during abrupt quarrels after uncontrollable emotions, also known as “heat of passion.” Under this penal code, voluntary manslaughter can also happen when a person has an honest belief that he/she needs to act in self-defense to protect him/her self from bodily injury or death, although the belief is unreasonable. It is a crime because a standard, reasonable individual cannot act the same way in the same situation.
Most of the time, defendants in a homicide case will admit to killing another human being to reduce the charges to criminal offenses like voluntary manslaughter, which has less severe penalties. Criminal laws are hard to understand to a layman; therefore, you should consider seeking a criminal defense attorney’s services immediately after police arrest you for legal guidance through the case. For you to be guilty in any voluntary manslaughter charges, the prosecutor must demonstrate particular elements of this crime beyond a reasonable doubt to the tribunal.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove for Conviction in Voluntary Manslaughter Charges
To avoid conviction in a voluntary manslaughter charge, hiring a criminal defense attorney should be your first step towards achieving the best outcome. Your criminal defense attorney carries the burden of proof to protect you from the possible penalties of voluntary manslaughter in California. Voluntary manslaughter contains the following crime elements:
Death of Another Person
The acts of the defendant must cause death to another person to qualify as manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter involves the intentional killing of another person during disputes without malice aforethought on the victim. Any injury case by use of a deadly weapon that does not result in imminent death will not qualify to be a voluntary manslaughter crime. However, the prosecutor can file other charges under California law for the offense, such as attempted murder.
There Were Unlawful Intentions to Kill
The prosecutor will depend on surveillance videos and eyewitness testimonies to be able to determine events that lead to the murder. Unlawful intentions will be clear if the defendant's actions during the quarrel or heat of passion portray disregard for human life.
Unlawful intentions to kill are clear if the defendant uses a deadly weapon to threaten the other person during quarrels or heat of passion. Eventually, he/she uses that weapon to kill the victim. The use of a deadly weapon during quarrels portrays disregard for human life, which is viable evidence to convict the defendant for voluntary manslaughter.
There is no Justification or Lawful Excuse to the Defendant’s Actions
Most of the voluntary manslaughter cases happen during quarrels in the “heat of passion.” Disputes are not uncommon in relationships. Feelings of love or hate sometimes can become uncontrollable, making someone do stupid things during quarrels and conflicts.
Voluntary manslaughter involving heat of passion, the court presumes the defendant did not have malice aforethought when he/she made the killing because there was some provoking during the argument. In that case, there is no lawful excuse for making the killing even if the argument got sour because any reasonable person could not have done the same while in the same situation and circumstances. The defendant might not be guilty of if he/she was acting in self-defense when he/she made the killing.
Viable Legal Defenses for Voluntary Manslaughter Charges in California
A criminal defense lawyer can protect the defendant from voluntary manslaughter allegations by raising some arguments against the criminal elements the prosecutor demonstrates to the jury. The threshold of proof for both the prosecutor and the defendant should be above a reasonable doubt. Below are viable legal defenses the criminal defense lawyer can raise in a voluntary manslaughter charge:
Self-defense laws allow a person to use any reasonable means to protect yourself or any other person from bodily injury, rape, robbery, or imminent death. Therefore, if you kill a person because you had a reasonable belief that he/she is about to kill you or cause physical injury, you might not be guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Surveillance video tape and eyewitness testimonies can play a vital role in proving that the defendant acted in self-defense during the killing of the victim.
Insanity would be a viable legal defense in violent crime like voluntary manslaughter if the defendant were insane during the occurrence of the killing. An insane person cannot understand or distinguish something wrong and right. A criminal defense attorney can raise this form of defense by arguing that the defendant was legally insane when he/she made the killing as per the M'Naghten rule, which legally defines insanity.
An accident would be applicable as a legal defense if the defendant did not have criminal intent to harm, kill, or engage in any blameworthy negligence. Your criminal defense attorney can use this form of criminal defense if:
You had no intent to kill or cause harm
You did some unlawful actions during the occurrence of the accident
Your actions were not of negligence during the event of the accident
Murder Conviction Plea Bargain
Because murder penalties are severe under penal code 187, victims of murder charges often admit killing another person; however, they plead for lesser charges like voluntary manslaughter. When doing a plea bargain, your criminal defense lawyer can demonstrate to the jury that you were quarreling or acting in “heat of passion” during a homicide occurrence for a reduction of the charges to voluntary manslaughter.
Penalties for Voluntary Manslaughter in California
Voluntary manslaughter qualifies to be second-degree murder. Second-degree murder is a homicide without premeditation, which happens when the defendant is trying to cause physical harm to another person using actions that portray disregard for human life. When the judge decides on the right type of penalty to impose on a defendant who is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, certain factors are considered to determine the right penalty. These factors include:
The judge considers mitigating factors surrounding the case to determine the severity of the penalty to impose on a guilty defendant. It’s upon your criminal defense attorney to find out mitigating factors within the murder case to demonstrate to the jury that you deserve a less severe penalty. Lack of criminal history is an excellent example of a mitigating factor that can make the judge impose a less severe penalty for voluntary manslaughter. Additionally, if the defendant accepts the responsibility of the killing, and he/she is not risky to the community, the judge will most likely impose a less severe penalty.
Unlike mitigating factors, aggravating factors add the defendant’s sentence and make the penalty harsher. Aggravating factors in crime are the facts surrounding the case, which makes the offense more serious. Having a criminal history counts as an aggravating factor in a voluntary manslaughter case, which presumes the defendant to be dangerous to the community hence harsher penalties.
The courts also takes into consideration the vulnerability of the respective victim and the brutality of the defendant’s actions leading to the killing. If there are more aggravating factors surrounding the voluntary manslaughter case, the defendant will receive tougher penalties. If you receive a voluntary manslaughter charge, you’ll depend on your criminal defense attorney for legal representation to avoid possible hefty penalties and conviction. The following are potential penalties the judge can impose on a voluntary manslaughter charge if the defendant is guilty as per California penal code 192:
Imprisonment and Fine
Prison sentences for any felony offense tend to be very long, especially if the offense involves a violent crime like homicide or manslaughter. Unlike in a murder charge where a defendant serves a minimum of 15 years or life imprisonment in the state prison, in a voluntary manslaughter charge, the defendant will serve a prison sentence of three to thirteen years in the state penitentiary. The defendant will also pay a maximum fine of $10,000 as part of the penalty.
Three Strikes Law Punishment
Three strikes law is a legal scheme for sentencing criminals who have become notorious in committing felony offenses. If the defendant has a prior conviction of a maximum of three violent criminal offenses, he/she will receive punishment under the three-strikes law sentencing scheme. The defendant can get twenty-five years of life imprisonment if he/she has a violent felony conviction in his/her criminal record during the arrest period.
Loss of Firearm Ownership Rights
Conviction of more than one felony offense can affect a defendant’s gun ownership rights; therefore, the defendant might not be able to buy or possess a gun again anywhere. Ownership of a firearm as a felon is a different crime under penal code 29800, which the prosecutor can choose to charge separately in a voluntary murder case. If the defendant is an addict of narcotic drugs, that might also count as an aggravating factor to make the defendant lose his/her gun ownership rights.
As part of the penalty for voluntary manslaughter, the court might also require the offender to participate in a community service work. Community service works include building projects or roadside works which the defendant should offer labor. Mitigating factors such as lack of prior criminal history make this form of punishment suitable because the court considers the defendant undangerous to the community.
The court considers counseling services essential to help the defendant mentally and emotionally after voluntary manslaughter. If the defendant's actions were out of anger in an argument in “heat of passion,” he/she qualifies for an anger management class. As part of the conviction sentence for manslaughter, the judge will also require the defendant to seek a counselor’s services for mental and emotional guidance. Apart from counseling and community service work, the judge can also impose other conditions to the sentence which are relevant to this case.
You’ll have to retain a knowledgeable criminal lawyer with prior experience handling similar violent crimes for better services since most of the legal defenses that apply in a voluntary manslaughter case are the same. The criminal defense attorney will investigate and analyze the case to find out all possible factors that can mitigate the penalties the judge is likely to impose for a voluntary manslaughter charge.
Criminal Offenses Relating to Voluntary Manslaughter in California
Even if there is no enough evidence to convict you for voluntary manslaughter, the prosecutor might still find other offenses relating to voluntary manslaughter to charge in a human being killing case. Other criminal offenses relating to voluntary manslaughter include:
Unlike a crime like voluntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter happens when a person kills another while driving an automobile due to negligent and unlawful/lawful acts that are dangerous to human life. Penal code 192(c) sets the statute for vehicular manslaughter in California by making it a crime to cause another person's death out of negligence or reckless acts.
The defendant might get a conviction for vehicular manslaughter if elements of gross negligence are evident in his/her actions towards the accident’s occurrence, leading to the death of a person. The prosecutor must demonstrate the following elements of negligence during vehicular manslaughter prosecution:
The defendant’s acts during the occurrence of the accident were dangerous to human life.
The accident was a result of the violation of traffic regulation.
The defendant acts led to the death of another person, even if they were lawful acts.
The defendant was grossly negligent during the occurrence of the vehicular accident.
If reckless acts led to the accident’s occurrence, for instance, driving while texting, the defendant would be guilty of negligence, which is the main element of crime in vehicular manslaughter. Vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler offense that can lead to either a misdemeanor or felony penalty depending on the nature of the accident and events before the occurrence of the accident.
A defendant who violates laws on driving under California’s influence, hence causing the death of another person after an accident, can be guilty of DUI manslaughter, also known as Watson murder. DUI manslaughter is a second-degree murder because the driver has no intent to kill during the occurrence of an accident. Prior DUI conviction record is an aggravating factor which makes the prosecutor file DUI manslaughter charges on a defendant.
A DUI manslaughter can attract fifteen years imprisonment and a maximum fine of ten thousand ($10,000). There can also be a strike on the offender’s criminal record under California’s “three strikes law” if the offender has a prior DUI conviction history in his/her criminal record.
Involuntary manslaughter happens when an offender participates in inherent dangerous actions out of negligence, which causes the death of another person. The actions could be lawful, but the defendant’s behavior during the murder was unlawful and reckless with disregard for human life. Criminal negligence is the basis for proving liability in involuntary manslaughter regardless of the defendant’s underlying criminal offenses or underlying lawful/unlawful acts. The penalty for involuntary manslaughter in California ranges from two to four years in the county jail.
Attempted murder is a criminal offense, even if the perpetrator does not succeed in killing the victim. According to penal code 664/187 (a) of the California law, attempted murder becomes a crime when the perpetrator takes direct dangerous actions with an intent to kill another person, but the respective victim does not die. Intent to kill is the key crime element for an attempted murder charge. The penalties for attempted murder depend on whether the prosecutor charges are first-degree murder or second-degree murder.
Unlike a second-degree murder, in first-degree murder, the offender portrays willful intent to kill another person after premeditation. Penalties for first-degree murder can lead to life imprisonment, while penalties for second-degree murder can range between five to nine years in the state prison. Trying to poison another person to death but he/she ends up surviving is an example of attempted murder.
Finally, murder is always a distinct crime in California. Murder is the unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought and premeditation. Malice aforethought is the main element of the crime that the prosecutor needs to prove to the jury for a defendant to get a conviction for murder as per California penal code 187.
If the defendant pulls a gun and kills another person after making a declaration that he/she will kill the victim, the offender will be guilty of murder since he intended to kill the person. Eyewitness testimonies and videos/audio recordings can help the prosecutor determine if the offender had malice aforethought and intent to kill.
Voluntary manslaughter crime elements are almost similar to that of murder. In contrast to a murder charge, in a voluntary manslaughter charge, the defendant does not have malice aforethought when he/she kills another person. However, suppose the defendant premeditates about killing another person after a ‘heat of passion’ or quarrels. In that case, he/she proceeds to kill the victim later; the offender will be guilty of murder. Regardless of the form of murder charge you receive after killing someone, you should retain a reliable criminal lawyer for legal protection during prosecution or trial.
Factors to Consider When Searching for a Reliable Criminal Lawyer after Voluntary Manslaughter Charges
Maneuvering any murder charges can be very overwhelming without the services of a criminal defense lawyer. Below are top-notch factors to take into consideration when looking for a criminal defense attorney in California.
The Lawyer’s Experience
A criminal defense lawyer's skills advance with different experiences on the line of duty. Every voluntary murder case has different aspects surrounding the crime. You’ll be sure that your criminal defense attorney has come across a case like yours before if he/she has significant experience in representing victims of voluntary manslaughter during prosecution. That way, the defendant can relax, knowing that the case is in the right hands of a reliable professional for the work.
Consider the Lawyer’s Courtesy and Friendliness
Opening up your inner secrets surrounding the killing will not be easy if you do not trust your lawyer. Every single detail triggering the unlawful killing of another person is essential in compiling legal defense for voluntary manslaughter. Therefore, you must search for a friendly and courteous lawyer for a comfortable relationship during the prosecution process.
Excellent Communication Skills
Good communication skills are an essential requirement for any lawyer because of the nature of their work. A good lawyer must be able to communicate every case’s progress to their client in a manner that they can understand because legal terms can be complicated to a layperson. Considering the type of communication that occurs in court, it’s always wise to hire a lawyer with excellent communication skills for the best outcome.
Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Contacting a criminal defense lawyer in Orange County for legal representation is the first step towards achieving the best outcome in a voluntary manslaughter charge. We invite you to reach out to the Orange County Criminal Lawyer at 714-262-4833 immediately after allegations of voluntary manslaughter to avoid hefty punishments. We will review your case and determine the best defense strategy.