Manslaughter is one of the most substantial charges that could be filed in Santa Ana, California. Whether charged with involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, or vehicular manslaughter, you risk facing penalties and consequences that range from incarceration to fines. These charges could also affect your career, future, finances, and life. If you have been accused of these offenses, you should consult with a skilled attorney at Darwish Law. We can analyze the case circumstances to develop a legal defense and help you achieve the best possible case outcome.

Understanding Manslaughter in California

Although considered a less severe offense than murder, manslaughter is one of the violent crimes. While they are almost identical, murder is different from manslaughter. Murder requires malicious intent to cause another person's death. On the other hand, manslaughter is killing somebody else without malice.

Generally, there are three (3) primary categories of manslaughter, namely:

  • Vehicular manslaughter

  • Involuntary manslaughter

  • Voluntary manslaughter

Typically, manslaughter is a felony that carries fines and incarceration. These penalties could adversely affect your finances, family, career, and future. As a result, you should consult with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who can get the best possible case outcome.

Read on to learn more about manslaughter in California.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Penal Code Section 192 defines voluntary manslaughter as killing another individual during a sudden quarrel, founded on an unreasonable honest belief in self-defense or in the heat of passion.

The main difference between voluntary manslaughter and murder is whether the accused acted with malice. Malice exists when a person acts intending to kill or acts with disregard for human life. When a person kills a fetus or another person and acts with malice, they have committed murder. Nonetheless, when a person kills another during a sudden argument, the law presumes they did not act in malice, and that forms the basis of voluntary manslaughter's reduced charge.

To kill another during a sudden argument entails the following:

  • The accused was provoked,

  • Due to the provocation, they acted impulsively and influenced by intense emotions, hindering judgment and reasoning, AND

  • This provocation might have made a prudent individual act impulsively and without deliberation.

If between when the defendant was provoked/aggravated, and the time they killed, they took time to calm down and regain their capacity to reason, they would be guilty of murder.

The courts haven't established criteria that form sufficient provocation.

The provocation ought to be convincing that it could make an individual in similar circumstances react expressively instead of reasonably.

Penalties, Sentencing, and Consequences of a Violation of PC 192

If found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, the accused might spend a maximum of eleven (11) years in state prison. By contrast, a murder conviction carries fifteen years or even life imprisonment.

Other penalties of PC 192 include:

  • Up to $10,000 in fines

  • A California strike on the criminal record per the Three-strikes laws (A strike enhances your penalties if you have a prior felony or face a felony later)

  • Loss of entitlement to possess a gun

  • Community service

  • Completion of counseling programs, including anger management

  • Fulfilling any other terms that the judge thinks are related to the case circumstances

Fighting Voluntary Manslaughter Charges

There are several legal defenses to voluntary manslaughter that your attorney could use on your behalf, including:

  1. Defense of Others, Self-Defense or Imperfect Self-Defense

Self-defense laws justify you killing somebody else when you kill to safeguard another person or yourself from:

  • Sustaining great bodily injuries

  • Being killed

  • Being robbed, raped, or maimed

Imperfect self-defense happens when the defendant kills another because they:

  • Thought that another person or them was in pending danger of being slain or suffering from severe injuries

  • Thought the application of force was necessary to defend against the danger

Imperfect self-defense does not substitute for criminal liability. However, your lawyer can use it to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the murder charge to California voluntary manslaughter.

  1. It was an Accident

If a defendant accidentally kills another, they aren't guilty of voluntary manslaughter. It is because they:

  • Were not negligent during the accident

  • Did not act with criminal intent

  • Were engaging in legal conduct at the time of the killing

  1. Insanity

Under insanity defense, you cannot be found guilty of killing another because:

  • You cannot tell the difference between right and wrong

  • You do not understand your conduct's nature

Involuntary Manslaughter

Penal Code 192(b) defines involuntary manslaughter as the unintentional killing of somebody else while doing an illegal act or engaging in an offense that is not a dangerous felony that could cause death.

The prosecutor should establish the following facts of the crime before the defendant is convicted:

  • The defendant committed an infraction, misdemeanor, an offense which isn't a dangerous felony, or lawful conduct which was executed illegally.

  • The defendant was criminally negligent.

  • The behavior resulted in somebody else's death.

  1. Criminal Negligence

Criminal negligence goes beyond the mistake in judgment, inattention, or ordinary carelessness. It takes place when:

  • You are so reckless that your conduct created a high likelihood of significant bodily injuries or death.

  • A prudent individual would have been aware that behaving in a similar manner creates the risk.

  1. Caused Another Individual’s Death

Your behavior is deemed to have led to another individual’s death if their death was a natural, probable, and direct consequence of your conduct, and the demise wouldn't have occurred without the act.

In layman’s terms, a cautious individual could have realized the possibility of the occurrence of death.

Involuntary Manslaughter on Legal Duty Basis

Involuntary manslaughter due to failing to perform legal duties is a category of California PC 192(b). However, its definition is different. Its elements of the crime include:

  • The accused had a responsibility to the victim

  • The accused didn’t perform their duty, and they were criminally negligent

  • Their criminal negligence led to the victim's demise

The judge will determine whether you had a legal responsibility to another or not.

PC 192(b) Penalties

The crime in question is as charged as a felony and attracts the following penalties:

  • Formal probation

  • Maximum fine of $10,000

  • Up to four (4) years in prison

The crime also triggers lawsuits by the victims' families. If successful, the defendant could face a considerable civil judgment.

Suppose you are found guilty of PC 192(b) for accidentally killing another person using a firearm or any other deadly or dangerous weapon. In that case, you will face a California strike.

How to Fight Involuntary Manslaughter Charges

Whenever some individual dies under mysterious circumstances, the prosecution will get involved and hold a person accountable. Consequently, the team jumps to conclusions, leaving innocent persons to defend themselves against Penal Code 192(b) charge.

Coincidentally there are many defense strategies that your attorney could use, including:

  1. You are Falsely Accused

False accusations are a common phenomenon in involuntary manslaughter.

It could be the alleged victim's loved ones wanting to reduce the victim's role in their death by blaming another person. Or a person may be seeking vengeance against the accused.

Your experienced defense attorney, who has previously handled a similar case, understands the stakes and how essential details are vital to fight the charges.

  1. There is No Adequate Evidence to Convict You

From time to time, in what looks like a simple case, the law enforcement agency might jump to conclusions and present their accusations to the prosecution that buys into the account given.

That is why you should hire a seasoned attorney. The legal expert will invest time and resources to conduct an independent investigation.

Your attorney could also claim that the killing was an accident or you were acting in self-defense.

Vehicular Manslaughter

You violate vehicular manslaughter laws when you operate your motor vehicle illegally or negligently, resulting in another person's demise. The severity of the offense and penalties depend mainly on the level of negligence, whether you were drunk, and on your previous criminal record.

However, if you killed a person while driving your vehicle and committing a felony, you'll face murder charges under the felony-murder rule.

Vehicular Manslaughter With Gross Negligence

The prosecution team must demonstrate the following before you may be convicted of PC 192(c)(1):

  • While driving your motor vehicle, you committed a California misdemeanor, infraction, or committed legal conduct in a way that might result in death.

  • The behavior was unsafe to human life under the case circumstances.

  • You committed the act with gross negligence.

  • The behavior caused somebody else's death.

Gross negligence surpasses carelessness, inattentiveness, mistakes in judgment. It takes places when:

  • You act recklessly and create a risk of great bodily injuries or death.

  • A reasonable person would have been aware that behaving in such a way would result in the risk.

What Penalties Does Vehicular Manslaughter with Gross Negligence Carry?

It’s charged as a wobbler in California. In layman’s language, you might face either a California misdemeanor or felony. It depends mainly on your previous criminal record and the case circumstances.

If charged as a misdemeanor, you’ll face:

  • Summary probation

  • $1,000 in fines

  • One year in county jail

A felony, on the other hand, carries a maximum fine of $10,000, up to six (6) years in prison, and formal probation.

Misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter

The elements of this crime include:

  • While operating your car, you committed a California infraction or a misdemeanor or lawful conduct in an illegal way

  • The conduct was hazardous to life under the case circumstances

  • You committed the act with ordinary negligence

  • Your behavior led to another person's demise

Ordinary vehicular manslaughter differs from PC 192(c)(1) in that PC 192(c)(2) does not require gross negligence. The law defines ordinary negligence as failure to use care to prevent reasonably probable harm to another individual.

Violation of this penal code section includes the following penalties:

  • A one-year county jail sentence

  • A maximum fine of $1,000

  • Summary probation

Vehicular Manslaughter for Financial Gain

Vehicular manslaughter for financial gain occurs:

  • When operating your motor vehicle, you intentionally participated or caused an accident

  • You acted so knowing the aim of the accident is engaging in auto insurance fraud

  • You acted so intending to defraud an insurer or another person

  • The accident led to death

The defendant commits vehicular manslaughter if they accidentally kill another person while intentionally wrecking their car to violate insurance fraud law.

It's prosecuted as a felony that is punishable by:

  • Up to ten years in state prison

  • A maximum of $10,000 in fines

If you are found guilty of either vehicular manslaughter for financial gain or PC 192(c)(1), you risk facing driver’s license revocation by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV won't reinstate the license until three years have passed since the date of revocation. Please note driving with a revoked license attracts additional charges.

Fighting Your Vehicular Manslaughter Charge

Accidents occur whenever persons operate vehicles. However, sometimes, prosecution teams respond to accidents by filing PC 192(c) charges even if they are unfair and unjustified. If this is your current situation, you do not have to worry because there are numerous legal defenses that your defense attorney could use to fight the charges. They include:

  1. The Defendant Didn't Act With Gross Negligence or Negligence

Both gross negligence and ordinary negligence could be hard to establish. It is because the definitions allude to a prudent individual standard of conduct, which is objective.

Operating a car requires making a quick decision, and it could be challenging to claim that the decision, even if it turned out to be a bad one, was so bad to be careless.

If you're charged with PC 192(c)(2), you can argue that the conduct was just negligent. It could dramatically reduce the potential consequences and protect your driver's license from revocation.

  1. The Defendant Faced an Emergency and Acted Reasonably Under the Circumstances

The law provides that if a person is faced with an emergency, they should use similar judgment and care that a cautious individual would use in similar circumstances.

If you acted so, then you aren't grossly negligent or negligent.

  1. Your Negligence Did Not Result in the Alleged Victim's Demise

Understanding the connections in car accidents can be difficult.

Even when you operate your vehicle with gross negligence or negligence and a person died, the odds are the prosecutor can't prove you are accountable. Instead, say another person or the victim's negligence led to the demise, and thus you're guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

Your defense lawyer could challenge the prosecutor's side of the story about what events took place thanks to expert witnesses like an accident reconstructionist.

Ways a Defense Attorney Can Help Your Manslaughter Case

When hiring a defense lawyer, you shouldn't base the decision on cost. If you want to realize a favorable case outcome, you require an experienced attorney in violent crime cases. Discussed below are the reasons you should retain legal counsel.

  • The attorney understands the law — California criminal law is complicated with several court decisions, constitutional rights, and statutes. You can't hope to raise a good defense without a lawyer familiar with the law and defenses as applied to the charge.

  • Conduct investigations — The prosecution team consists of police officers among other investigators who work to build a criminal case against you. You require a skilled lawyer who could examine proof presented, interview witnesses, and conduct thorough investigations of the crime elements.

  • Engage in plea bargain negotiations — If you have decided that plea bargain is in your best interests, you can enter into more favorable agreements than you would obtain when representing yourself. Your attorney will use their investigation outcome, experience, and knowledge to convince the prosecutor to reduce your charges. It is particularly essential if you are charged with murder.

  • Offer you a reality check — After conducting their investigation, the attorney will provide you a realistic analysis of the possible case outcome. It can help you decide whether to engage in a plea bargain or proceed to trial.

  • Challenge proof against you — Law enforcement agencies might not have adhered to the procedures and laws of collecting evidence. Your lawyer should identify the issue and file a motion to suppress this unlawfully obtained evidence. It might result in a case dismissal or reduction of the charges to a less severe crime, even if you're guilty.

  • The attorney knows how and when to file court documents.

Find Legal Representation Near Me

If you are involved in an occurrence that causes another person's death in Santa Ana or a surrounding city, even if you acted without predetermined intent or malice or the death was accidental, you are likely to face manslaughter charges. Whether charged with a misdemeanor or felony, the penalties may harm you and affect your future. And that is why you need a skilled defense attorney. In all forms of manslaughter charges, an attorney will be instrumental in building your defense.

Darwish Law's experienced attorneys could help you know what your allegations mean, penalties, and the available legal defenses. We could also advise you on what options and resources you might have to get you back on your feet after completing your sentence. Contact our Santa Ana criminal lawyer today at 714-887-4810 to book an appointment and learn more about how we can help you.