Murder or homicide involves malice, which may be express or implied under California law. Express malice is the deliberate intent to take the life of another human being. In contrast, manslaughter involves the killing of a human being without malice. Manslaughter is charged as a felony in most criminal cases and carries punishment consisting of considerable prison time and large fines.

California Penal Code Section § 192 PC describes 3 different types of manslaughter – voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular. Voluntary and Involuntary are distinguished as follows:

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of three kinds:

(a) Voluntary—upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.

(b) Involuntary—in 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.

(c) Vehicular

Voluntary manslaughter is rarely filed as an original charge, It is a lesser included offense to murder and often the result of a reduced murder charge when the accused has killed the victim but not necessarily with the requisite intent. It may arise as a reduced charge when the prosecution fails to believe that it can prove the intent necessary for a murder conviction, i.e., the prosecution fails to believe it can persuade a jury to convict.

PC § 192 is specifically applicable to situations where a person unlawfully kills another because of a sudden fight or provocation. These situations involve the inability to exercise reason over passion.  the prosecution must prove:

  • The defendant was provoked;
  • The provocation drove the defendant to act with impaired judgment and reasoning; and
  • A reasonable person would have acted rashly when provoked similarly.

The provocation is not objectively reasonable if it results from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, including under circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant, or if the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.

Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment in a California state prison for 3, 6, or 11 years. However, because a conviction for voluntary manslaughter conviction counts as a “strike” under California’s “Three-Strikes” sentencing system, a conviction for voluntary manslaughter may result in a sentence of life imprisonment.

John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The advice, guidance, and representation of experienced criminal defense counsel may be crucial to achieving the best possible result in any criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.

About Voluntary Manslaughter

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