January 27, 2023 By Paul Wallin

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter: What’s the Difference? 

Although manslaughter is a lesser offense than murder, it is still considered one of the most serious crimes in California, and the penalties for conviction include long prison sentences. Whether your manslaughter case is charged as voluntary or involuntary can be complex, as your charges will often depend on the specific circumstances of your case and your intentions. Continue reading to learn the difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, as well as the penalties for each. If you have been accused of manslaughter in California, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to see how we can help you. 

Voluntary Manslaughter 

Voluntary manslaughter does not qualify as murder, but it is a form of homicide that is committed without premeditation or malice aforethought. Usually, this intentional killing occurs in the “heat of passion” resulting from provocation from the victim. Since the killing took place in response to being provoked, the charges are reduced from murder to the lesser offense of manslaughter. 

In order to prove that the killing happened in the heat of passion, the defendant must show that the provocation was such that a reasonable person in similar circumstances would also lose control of their impulses. This can be a hard burden to prove since the defendant cannot simply state that he was angered by the victim. A typical example of a heat of passion killing is when a man catches his spouse in the act of adultery and kills the other man. If the provocation was not substantial enough to warrant the killing, the defendant will likely be charged with second-degree murder instead. Additionally, if the defendant had time to cool off and think rationally about the situation, then the defendant will likely be found guilty of murder rather than manslaughter. 

Under California Penal Code Section 192(a), voluntary manslaughter is a felony, meaning there are harsh penalties for conviction. These penalties include: 

  • 3, 6, or 11 years in state prison 
  • Up to $10,000 in fines 
  • Probation with up to 1 year in county jail 
  • A strike under California’s Three Strikes Law 

Involuntary Manslaughter 

Involuntary manslaughter is generally considered to be the least serious form of homicide, but it can still hold negative consequences. It involves an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or negligence. In the legal context, recklessness means that the defendant acted even though he was aware of the risk involved, while negligence means that the defendant was not aware of the risk involved but should have been. 

Involuntary manslaughter does not require deliberation or even intent, so a defendant cannot use the defense that he did not intend to commit the crime. Rather, the defendant may argue that the killing was an accident and did not result from careless acts. An example of involuntary manslaughter would be if a mother leaves her baby in the car on a hot day and the baby dies. Although the mother did not intend to kill her child, her negligence makes her guilty of involuntary manslaughter. 

Under California Penal Code Section 192(b), manslaughter is a felony even when it is involuntary. The penalties for conviction include: 

  • 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison 
  • Up to $10,000 in fines 
  • Probation 
  • A civil lawsuit by the family of the victim and subsequent civil penalties 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

When you are facing a serious charge like manslaughter, you need an aggressive defense attorney to fight for your freedom. With 40+ years of experience, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have helped thousands of clients win their manslaughter cases or get their charges reduced to a lesser degree. We know the most effective defenses to argue on your behalf, and we will do everything in our power to help you achieve the best possible result in your case. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available Wallin and Klarich office near you. Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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