Manslaughter is a type of homicide, defined as the killing of another person. California law holds that the difference between a manslaughter and murder charge is the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the killing. A strong legal defense is critical for those facing violent criminal charges. Riverside and San Bernardino County homicide attorney Gregory H. Comings is prepared to advocate for his clients in the pursuit of a fair outcome. During the course of representation, Attorney Comings will remain accessible, providing an honest assessment of your case. At The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings, we will work diligently on your behalf.
Voluntary manslaughter is defined by California Penal Code section 192 as the unlawful killing of a person without malice. Malice is a specific mental state generally defined as acting deliberately, with a calm mind, or committing a cruel and purposeful act without provocation. As a form of homicide, manslaughter includes voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter.
Proving voluntary manslaughter requires the prosecution to show that the defendant was provoked to kill or severely harm the deceased during a quarrel or heat of passion. The elements of this crime include a provocation that drove an individual to act with impaired judgment and reasoning, and circumstances that would have led any reasonable person to act rashly when provoked in the same manner. Common examples of events that may provoke a killing include the murder of a family member, or adultery, as well as a voluntary physical altercation between the defendant and the deceased.
Regarding the element of provocation, the issue is whether a reasonable person, in similar circumstances, would have lost control and acted upon impulse. If the judge or jury determines that the provocation was not substantial enough, then the defendant may face charges of second-degree murder or other charges. The facts of the case will dictate the assessment and determination, but in some cases, the prosecution will assert that words alone will not suffice as provocation. Further, minor instances of battery may not rise to the level of adequate provocation.
For a voluntary manslaughter charge to apply, at the time of the killing, the defendant must have been in the “heat of passion.” The killing must occur within a reasonable time after the provocation. In other words, the defendant must not have had the opportunity to calm down or regain a sense of calm. In many situations, the time period between the provocation and the actual killing must not have been long, or the criminal charges may rise to murder. A skilled homicide lawyer can help you advocate for yourself if you are facing these circumstances.
The harsh penalties for voluntary manslaughter include state prison as well as a potential “strike” according to California’s Three Strikes Law. Defendants may face up to eleven years in state prison, and fines of up to $10,000. Those convicted of manslaughter may lose the right to carry a firearm, and can be sentenced to counseling and community service.
Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing. Therefore, the defendant may present the defense that they did not have the intent to kill. An accidental crime, or one that was committed due to insanity or intoxication, may lead to a dismissal of charges. An insanity defense requires a showing that the person did not know the difference between right and wrong, or did not understand the nature of their actions. An accidental killing occurs when a defendant was acting lawfully and not negligently, and without intention to harm.
Other defenses to manslaughter charges include self defense, or defense of others. The defendant would need to demonstrate that they held a reasonable belief they were in imminent danger of being the victim of a crime. The defense may be strong when the threat of harm rises to the level that would leave a reasonable person in fear of death or great bodily harm.
In some cases, the prosecution may have insufficient evidence. If there is not enough evidence demonstrating that the defendant caused the victim’s death, or acted in a negligent manner, the defendant may have a strong defense. Errors concerning the procedures used to obtain evidence or a confession may serve as a defense as well, such as the constitutional right to freedom from unlawful search and seizure.
Voluntary manslaughter is a violent crime that carries serious penalties. Individuals seeking experienced, capable legal representation can rely on Attorney Greogry H. Comings to fight for their rights. Mr. Comings and the team at The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings strive to help clients reduce or dismiss criminal charges. We help people in Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Moreno Valley, Temecula, Indio, Redlands, Highland, and throughout San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Call our office at (951) 686-3457 or contact us online learn more about your legal options.