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Orange County Manslaughter Attorney

Arrested for Manslaughter in Southern California?

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is a killing that is committed without intent, or, if there is intent, there is some legal justification or mitigating excuse for the homicide. Manslaughter can be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case. There are three categories of manslaughter under California Penal Code 192: voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is a killing that is done intentionally or with conscious disregard for human life "upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion." The sudden quarrel or heat of passion acts as a mitigating factor. These are killings that would otherwise be classified as murder; however, the charge is reduced because it is presumed that when an individual kills during a sudden quarrel or the heat of passion, that person lacks the malice necessary for the commission of murder.

Sudden quarrel or heat of passion exists when the following three elements are met:

  • the killer was provoked;
  • the killer acted rashly and under the influence of intense emotion that obscured his or her reasoning or judgment; and
  • the provocation would have caused a person of average disposition to act rashly and without due deliberation.

Voluntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by up to 11 years of imprisonment.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing that is committed "during the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, or in the commission of a lawful act, which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection." An unintentional homicide committed during the commission of a misdemeanor, a non-dangerous felony, or other legal infraction would be considered involuntary manslaughter. In contrast, a killing that is committed during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony is considered a murder.

"Due caution and circumspection" is a criminal negligence standard that requires more than mere carelessness or an error in judgment. Behavior that shows a reckless disregard for human life is required. This means that a person might be prosecuted for a homicide that occurred during what would otherwise be a legal activity. For example, Michael Jackson's doctor was charged with involuntary manslaughter based on the doctor's prescription of sedative drugs, which is generally a lawful act.

The most common defenses to an involuntary manslaughter charge are:

  • Self-defense
  • Defense of others
  • Accidental killing (i.e., not the result of criminal activity or reckless disregard for human life)
  • False accusation
  • Mistaken identity
  • Insufficient evidence

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony that is punishable by up to four years of imprisonment.

Vehicular Manslaughter 

Vehicular manslaughter is a distinct crime under California law. Vehicular manslaughter that is committed with ordinary negligence is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of one year of imprisonment. However, a vehicular manslaughter that is committed with gross negligence can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by up to six years of imprisonment. Under California Penal Code 191.5, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated may be a misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment.

Have You or a Loved One Been Charged with Manslaughter?

If you or a loved one has been charged with any type of manslaughter, I can help. I'm an experienced criminal defense attorney who practices in Orange County and Los Angeles County. I work aggressively to obtain successful outcomes for my clients in court. The punishments for manslaughter convictions can be harsh, so don't take any chances. You need qualified legal counsel fighting for you. 

Contact the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes at (714) 987-2671 for a free consultation today.

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