Potential Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter in California

How prosecutors will approach manslaughter depends on the element of intent. With voluntary manslaughter, it was an individual’s intention to take another’s life, but unlike murder, the individual accused of killing another lacked premeditation.

We dive into California’s voluntary manslaughter statutes and what potential defenses will be used to help eliminate, or lessen, the charges against you.

California Manslaughter Statute

According to statute, voluntary manslaughter can be charged when an individual is killed during a sudden quarrel or heat of passion without malice. It lacks an element of premeditation since one did not have time to plan another’s death; it just happened. If the killing took place while operating a vehicle or piece of machinery, it would be construed as voluntary vehicular manslaughter if one specifically used the vehicle to aid in the killing of another.

If an individual found out another’s sexual orientation, gender, or gender expression, and based the manslaughter on this information, it could potentially become murder unless one can prove provocation and that the defendant had no knowledge of it.

Proving Voluntary Manslaughter

Malice, or an obvious hatred toward the victim, is usually when manslaughter becomes murder or homicide. Events leading up to the death of another are also taken into account prior to charging someone with either. Manslaughter laws in California are complex, requiring an attorney to help defendants accurately navigate them.

Lacking malice and planning, prosecutors are forced to charge persons with voluntary manslaughter, then prove an individual sought to end the life of another. If they can not do this, the charges are again lowered to involuntary manslaughter, the lowest possible felony murder charge.

If the state successfully convicts the defendant of voluntary manslaughter, sentences range from three to 11 years in CDC along with fines, restitution (if applicable), and possible probation.

Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter

Manslaughter attorneys have numerous defenses they can raise if their clients stand accused. Some may include:

  • Individual acted in self-defense after being provoked or struck first;
  • Defendant believed deadly force would neutralize the threat and prevent their own death (imperfect self-defense);
  • Lack of mental acumen or insanity, or proven case of PTSD;
  • Defendant was involuntarily intoxicated;
  • Victim was not dead after the altercation ended, but later succumbed to the injuries.

Charges may be dismissed if any part, or all, of an investigation was improperly conducted. Moreover, during the heat of passion, prosecutors must prove that you went into an altercation planning on doing nothing less than killing an individual through provocation. Many times, this is difficult when the only two people to corroborate the events were the people involved, of which one is deceased.

If You are Charged, Take it Seriously.

Prosecutors want individuals with malicious intent off of California streets. Defense attorneys want enough evidence presented to prove their client is guilty as charged. A huge tug-of-war match will ensue, with either the prosecution dropping the case or lowering charges dramatically based off availability of proof.

An experienced manslaughter attorney knows the value of evidence, or the lack thereof, and will do anything possible to get a client off the hook. That is why it is important to never ‘talk too much’ or self-incriminate when dealing with investigators.

James E. Blatt has secured numerous acquittals during his career and wants to help you beat your manslaughter charge or lower it down to battery. Contact his office today, and get the defense you deserve when your freedom is in jeopardy.