Killing is a crime under most circumstances, but how someone is killed will impact the severity of charges enforced against people who perpetrate a killing. Manslaughter is one potential charge that can be enforced and is less severe than the more commonly known charge, murder. If you have been charged with murder, it may be helpful for you to work with a Los Angeles DUI attorney to have your charges reduced to manslaughter or dismissed entirely.
Manslaughter is the illegal killing of another human being without malicious aforethought. In instances of manslaughter, the offender typically has no intent to injure or kill the victim seriously. They also have no reckless disregard for the lives of others, meaning they take less moral blame in court.
Is Manslaughter a Serious Crime?
Manslaughter is undoubtedly a severe crime. Though, it is less heavily penalized than other crimes that involve killing, like murder. The type of manslaughter you are convicted of will also determine how serious your penalties and consequences are.
The two types of manslaughter are:
Sometimes people are provoked by people or circumstances to commit a killing. When this occurs, courts label it as voluntary manslaughter. Two conditions could lead to a voluntary manslaughter charge, they include:
- A person being provoked by circumstances that would reasonably cause them to commit a killing and;
- They commit the killing in the heat of passion soon after the provocatory stimulus.
The “heat of passion” is defined as a circumstance where an accused criminal claims that they were overcome by an uncontrollable state of anger, rage, fear, or fury at the time of the crime. If the person was not given enough time to cool down following provocation, an attorney could argue that they were still in the heat of passion when they committed the killing.
Therefore, voluntary manslaughter does involve intentional killing, but the emotional state of the killer reduces the level of blame they face. For example, if a married man returns home to find their spouse being intimate with another person, then they kill that other person; it can be argued that the crime occurred in the heat of passion. The judge and jury may not enforce murder charges and instead convict for voluntary manslaughter in such cases.
An unintentional homicide will be prosecuted differently than one that was intentional. When a killing occurs due to the negligence or reckless conduct of an individual or entity, those killings will be charged as involuntary manslaughter. Unintentionally killing someone while committing a different crime can also be prosecuted as involuntary manslaughter.
A typical example of involuntary manslaughter can be demonstrated in a car accident that causes fatal harm to one or more people. If the driver is sued civilly, they may be forced to compensate the victims’ families but not held liable at the criminal level. Suppose the courts decide to press involuntary manslaughter charges instead — then they likely have reason to believe that the driver was drunk or acting recklessly in another manner.
Second-degree murder charges would be placed if the driver had acted with extreme recklessness and did not consider the safety of others at all. So, for example, if their license had already been suspended and they decided to drive drunk anyway, then killed someone, they may face murder charges rather than involuntary manslaughter charges.
Murder vs. Manslaughter
Murder and manslaughter are similar but not the same. Manslaughter generally involves unintentional, accidental, or provoked killings.
Murders are more likely to include offenders engaging in intentional acts that result in death. This is especially true when killings are planned in advance or premeditated.
Defending Yourself Against Involuntary Manslaughter Charges
Involuntary manslaughter refers to an act of unintentional killing that occurs due to recklessness or criminal levels of negligence. This is not as severe as a voluntary manslaughter or murder charge, but it still carries heavy penalties that can make life much harder for a period. Such charges can also destroy a person’s career, meaning a conviction should be avoided at all costs.
To avoid facing maximum penalties for involuntary manslaughter, suspected offenders must develop a strong defense for their court case. There are a number of defenses that are effective in such cases, including claiming the killing was done in self-defense, the death was an accident, or you have been wrongfully accused. Any one of these defenses will be challenging to demonstrate in court, so having assistance from an experienced attorney is vital.
Accident defenses are challenging because they require the defendant to prove they were not acting irresponsibly or negligently. This requires demonstrating that they were unaware that their actions could result in death. Each case is different, but it usually takes a lawyer’s perspective to get cases dismissed or downgraded effectively.
What Is the Burden of Proof?
The burden of proof is a rule in criminal cases that applies specifically to prosecutors. Because the prosecutors have the burden of proof, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did commit the crime. If their evidence is faulty, the case may be thrown out.
To ensure justice is upheld, defendants can challenge every step of their criminal cases. Actions that can be taken include interviewing witnesses, reexamining evidence, conducting independent investigations, and various other legal solutions. If there is even a slight amount of doubt in the defendant’s guilt, the jury cannot rightfully convict them of the crime.
Defend Yourself Properly with an Attorney’s Help
There is no reason to confront an involuntary manslaughter case without the assistance of an esteemed attorney. If you choose to represent yourself, the risk of you being convicted on the proposed charges rises exponentially. A Los Angeles DUI attorney wants to protect your right to freedom, so rely on us to fight the battle for you.
You can get in touch with one of our attorneys by using the contact form on this page.