Under California’s homicide laws, it is illegal to end another person’s life. You can violate these laws by committing murder (Penal Code Section 187), voluntary manslaughter (Penal Code 192 PC), or involuntary manslaughter (Penal Code Section 192(b)). The laws describe involuntary manslaughter as the killing of another person without malice or intent. Such offenses often occur when the perpetrator acts in conscious disregard for human life. We encourage you to turn to the Darwish Law if you face involuntary manslaughter charges in Santa Ana, CA. We have a team of seasoned attorneys who can help you fight the charges and protect your rights.
The penalties for involuntary manslaughter go far beyond losing your freedom and paying fines or compensation during a civil lawsuit. Seeking legal help can maximize your chances of ensuring you are not slapped with the full wrath of the law. We can offer top-tier legal guidance and representation to help you safeguard your future in the best way possible.
Involuntary Manslaughter Defined
California’s Penal Code Section 192(b) describes involuntary manslaughter as the act of unintentionally ending the life of another person because of negligence or the lack of due caution. You can also face charges for violating PC 192(b) for killing another person during the commission of another crime that is not an “inherently dangerous felony.”
It remains imperative to understand that a crime is deemed voluntary manslaughter when the perpetrator ends up killing another person when they intend to exert some force or just harm them. On the other hand, murder ((PC 187) is the illegal and intentional killing with malicious aforethought. Vehicular manslaughter is another crime described as killing another person because of criminal negligence or the murderous operation of an automobile.
During involuntary manslaughter, you may have a case to answer to if your “actions” were unlawful. The prosecution merely needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted in a criminally negligent manner and with disregard for human life.
Criminal negligence is a term used to describe acts that cannot fit the bill of careless actions or mistakes. It means acting recklessly and creating a significant risk of great bodily harm or the death of another person. Generally, these are acts that any reasonable person should know can create a murderous kind of risk.
Generally, you can face charges for involuntary manslaughter when your actions (acts that lack intent or malice) directly cause the death of another. Moreover, you may face these charges if the victim dies because of the probable consequences of your actions. The prosecution merely needs to prove that “but for” your actions, the victim would still be alive and kicking.
Understanding the Legal Grounds of Penal Code Section 192(b) Charges
The crime of involuntary manslaughter has a fundamental underlying legal basis—the disregard for the safety of the people around you.
Then again, you may also face charges based on the breach of your legal duty to another person. In this case, your failure to carry out your legal duty of care to another person causing their death amounts to criminal negligence.
Often, establishing actions defined as your “legal duty” can be a tricky affair. The law casts a wide net that describes these actions mainly based on your relationship with the people around you. For instance, parents have a legal duty to protect their children. At the same time, a relationship creates “legal duties” between employers and their employees or even babysitters and children or practitioners and their patients.
If you face involuntary manslaughter charges, you need to speak to a skilled attorney immediately. One of the first things the expert will consider is the nature of the relationship between you and the deceased. This helps define your legal duties to the victim and devise a defense strategy that could get you out of trouble or at least help to have your charges reduced.
Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter
Like when dealing with any other criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proof. It is up to the prosecutor to prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt to prove you are guilty as charged:
- You caused the death of another person
- The actions that caused the demise of another individual were “criminally negligent”
- You were in commission of a California infraction, misdemeanor, or non-felony crime
The prosecution must prove that the victim’s death happened as you committed a crime or a lawful act using unlawful means. These crimes may include:
- A low-level crime that is considered an infraction. This could be an offense such as disturbing the peace.
- A misdemeanor such as petty theft or trespassing
- A non-crime committed using unlawful methods (any act that amounts to criminal negligence)
- A felony not described by law as an inherently dangerous crime
Note that the term “inherently dangerous” is meant to describe felonies committed with full awareness. These are crimes committed knowingly, recklessly, and with malice under circumstances that manifest extreme disregard for the value of human life. If you end another person’s life when committing an inherently dangerous crime, you are likely to face murder charges.
Furthermore, you have a case to answer to if your actions “caused” the death of another person. This is irrespective of whether your actions caused the victim’s direct, natural, or probable death. In this case, the prosecution must prove that:
- You knew or should have known that your actions could cause death
- Any reasonable person in your position should have known that their actions could cause death
When facing charges for involuntary manslaughter caused by your failure to carry out your legal duties, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You had a legal duty of care to your victim
- You failed to carry out your duty
- Your actions were criminally negligent, and they caused the death of another person.
Here is an excellent example of failure to exercise your legal duty:
John finds a homeless man around the corner and decides to feed and shelter him for a night. He welcomes the man into his home, and then the man grabs his chest and collapses during dinner. Instead of seeking medical attention or calling 911, John drags the unconscious homeless man back into the streets. Because John witnessed the homeless man have a heart attack in his home, he had the legal duty to call for help. Therefore, he is guilty of involuntary manslaughter for failing to perform his legal obligation to the homeless man. His disregard for human life caused the natural death of the victim.
Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter (Violating Penal Code Section 192(B))
There is a gray line between accidents and voluntary manslaughter. If the prosecution can prove the elements of Penal Code Section 192(b) beyond a reasonable doubt, you face the risk of a conviction.
An involuntary manslaughter conviction carries the following penalties:
- Felony Probation
- Jail time for 2, 3, or 4 years
- A fine not exceeding $10,000
If you are convicted of this crime and the death of another person was caused by a deadly weapon such as a firearm, your conviction will fall under California’s Three Strikes Law.
Civil Lawsuit for Wrongful Death
Moreover, you are likely to face a civil lawsuit filed by the dependents of the victim. Note that the deceased’s family can file a wrongful death claim irrespective of whether you are convicted or not. However, an involuntary manslaughter conviction often strengthens the basis of the civil lawsuit. It shows that the criminal court acknowledges that you were criminally negligent or that your actions caused your victim’s direct, natural, or probable death.
In addition to serving time, paying a hefty fine, and settling wrongful death compensation, you may also forego certain privileges following your conviction. If sentenced, you automatically lose your gun possession rights as stipulated under California’s Penal Code 12021. Right after the sentence, any state-issued gun possession licenses seize to be valid.
Once you lose your gun rights, you can face felony charges in California or in any other state if you attempt to own, possess or purchase a firearm.
The penalty for violating Penal Code 12021— Felon with a Firearm is as follows:
- 16 months, 2 or 3 years imprisonment in County Jail
- A maximum fine of $10,000
Best Defenses for Fighting Involuntary Manslaughter Charges
Facing charges for involuntary manslaughter marks the beginning of a criminal lawsuit. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your fate is sealed, and you will face a conviction. A skilled attorney can help build a winning defense that may just work in your favor.
Here are some of the best defenses a lawyer can apply when fighting involuntary manslaughter charges:
You have a right to defend yourself from imminent danger of great bodily harm or death. If you killed the alleged victim to protect yourself from the same fate, you might not have charges against you.
In this case, your attorney must prove to the court that you had reason to act in the manner you did in order to protect yourself. Moreover, the argument must show that anyone else in your position and under the present circumstances would have acted in the same way. Note that this defense holds up in court only if you employed the necessary force to protect yourself but killed your attacker accidentally.
It Was an Accident
In all cases of involuntary manslaughter, the defendant had no intent to kill their victim. However, you can prove that yours was indeed an accident because your actions cannot fall under “criminal negligence.”
In this case, your defense team must prove that the following is true:
- Your actions don’t amount to criminal negligence
- Even though you ended up killing the victim, you had no criminal intent to cause harm
- You only participated in a legal activity using illegal means during the accident
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
Not all involuntary manslaughter lawsuits are straightforward. Sometimes, not even the police can make quick decisions and arrest you for a crime, let alone charge you. At other times, the law enforcement officers make haste decisions, throw in charges and open a case with little to show as concrete evidence.
In this case, your best chances of fighting the charges are to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The specialist will conduct independent investigations to expose what happened and highlight possible reasons why the prosecution has no evidence against you.
More often, the friends and family of a deceased victim want someone to blame for the pain of losing a loved one. Sometimes, the cause of death is clear to them, but they will still want someone to “hang” for a victim’s death. At other times, people make false accusations out of jealousy, anger, or revenge.
If “planted” evidence points at you and you face involuntary manslaughter charges, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be your knight in shining armor. An expert acquainted with homicide cases will know how to emphasize the technical details that may get charges dropped. Merely pointing out one aspect that does not add up could help you prove that you are facing charges based on a fabricated story.
Offenses Related to Violating Penal Code Section 192(B)
As aforementioned, there are defenses closely related to involuntary manslaughter but are distinct. Note that these are not necessarily lesser offenses, although they can be charged with or in place of voluntary manslaughter. They include:
Murder— Penal Code 187
A thin line exists between involuntary manslaughter and other crimes such as voluntary manslaughter and murder. Sometimes, the charges can escalate into murder if the prosecution can prove intent. Note that the laws describe murder as the illegal act of killing another person with malice afterthought.
Often, involuntary manslaughter charges escalate into murder charges when a death occurs during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony.
If charged with murder, the penalty is as follows:
- 25 years to life in state prison
Voluntary Manslaughter —Penal Code 192a
When a defendant develops the intent to kill during the spur of the moment, they are likely to face charges for voluntary manslaughter. It could be that they were amid a heated argument, or they witnessed their victim commit a distasteful act such as cheating. Anytime a crime does not fall under murder or involuntary manslaughter charges, the prosecution may charge a defendant under Penal Code 192a —voluntary manslaughter.
If convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the punishment may include:
- Incarceration in state prison for 3 to 11 years
Vehicular Manslaughter— Penal Code 192c
Involuntary manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter are not so different in the sense that the defendant had no malicious intent to kill. The main difference is that during vehicular manslaughter, a defendant commits the crime while operating an automobile. Nonetheless, the prosecution must prove criminal negligence and a disregard for human life.
It remains imperative to note that you can also face charges for "gross vehicular manslaughter.” While this is not a different crime, it is a wobbler offense that can attract more severe punishment. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is also a distinct crime that attracts harsher punishment than the penalty for "regular" vehicular manslaughter.
Vehicular manslaughter is a misdemeanor. If found guilty, the punishment may include:
- Imprisonment in county jail for up to 1 year
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated—Penal Code 191.5
As aforementioned, the laws throw in the term “gross” when an accident that kills a person happens because of more than the usual levels of negligence. In this case, the prosecution must prove that you were intoxicated and killed your victim during the commission of a driving misdemeanor, infraction, or any other unlawful act.
If found guilty of violating Penal Code 191.5(a), the punishment may include:
- Up to 10 years in prison
DUI Homicide— Penal Code 191.5(a)
Drunk driving that leads to the death of another person automatically escalates into DUI homicide charges if you have several other DUI convictions. DUI homicide is when a person operating an automobile kills another person or persons as a natural consequence of their disregard for human life.
The prosecution must prove that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Moreover, they understood the risks associated with drunk driving but ignored these risks and drove dangerously. This shows “implied malice,” creating a basis for murder charges.
If convicted of DUI murder, the punishment is as follows:
- Jail time for 15 years to life
Find Santa Ana Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
There is often a lot of pressure revolving around the “suspicious” death of another person. The prosecution and law enforcement officers will heavily pursue these charges. On the other end, the public will want someone to be held accountable. Pressure from the public’s high expectations often pushes the courts into throwing in their best fight to bring the wrongdoer to justice. If you face charges for involuntary manslaughter in Santa Ana, CA, we invite you to contact Darwish Law. We will conduct independent investigations, seek help from forensic experts and go through all the evidence with a fine-tooth comb. Call us today at 714-887-4810 and let us give you your best chance of enjoying a favorable outcome.