If you are charged with manslaughter or with any other homicide or violent crime in Southern California, it’s a serious matter, and a conviction could send you to prison for years. You must put your case immediately in the hands of a Rosemead manslaughter attorney.
How is manslaughter defined in the State of California? What are your rights if you are charged with manslaughter or with any homicide or violent crime? What steps will you need to take in response to a manslaughter charge?
If you’ll continue reading this brief discussion of manslaughter, the law, and your rights, you will find the answers to these questions, and you’ll learn how a Rosemead criminal defense lawyer will work on your behalf if you become a criminal defendant facing a manslaughter charge.
What Is the Key Element When Someone Faces a Homicide Charge?
You probably know that manslaughter and murder are different crimes under California law. Since different situations may lead to homicides, the laws in all fifty states recognize several different kinds of homicide charges, and different penalties are imposed for convictions.
If you should kill someone in self-defense, it’s not a crime, although you might have to demonstrate to a jury that you were acting in self-defense. An accidental death may be an involuntary manslaughter or might not be a criminal offense at all, although such a case may trigger a wrongful death lawsuit.
The following homicide charges – a total of six – are available to prosecutors in California: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, capital murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter.
What Charge Is Appropriate?
Homicides are almost always complicated. Witnesses have to be interrogated. Timelines have to be verified. Medical evidence is often critical in homicide cases. Prosecutors and the police must determine what charge is appropriate, and that may not always be easy.
When a person kills someone else or has responsibility for someone else’s death, and when the criminal charge is determined, the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the incident is the key element. Was a killing planned? Was it even intentional? Could it have been avoided?
The problem is determining a defendant’s state of mind at the moment of the homicide incident. Juries and prosecutors in these cases have no choice but to rely on what the circumstances and the circumstantial evidence reveal.
What Constitutes Manslaughter in California?
Manslaughter is defined in this state as the unwarranted, intentional killing of another human being – but without malice aforethought, premeditation, or deliberation. Manslaughter is nevertheless a grave and serious violent crime.
Manslaughter may be involuntary or voluntary. Penalties for a voluntary manslaughter conviction in California may include probation, fines, community service, and/or a lengthy prison term.
To convict someone of involuntary manslaughter, that person had to act with criminal negligence. A negligent motorist who caused a death may face an involuntary manslaughter charge; so may an employer who violates mandatory safety measures if someone dies as the result of that violation.
What Constitutes Vehicular Manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter happens if a driver, in the act of driving, kills someone else while committing a lawful act that carries a risk for death, kills someone while committing an unlawful but not felonious act, or intentionally causes, for financial gain, an accident that results in a death.
Vehicular manslaughter in California is a “wobbler” offense that may be prosecuted, depending on the details of the case and the defendant’s criminal record, as a misdemeanor or as a felony. A felony conviction for vehicular manslaughter may be penalized with a lengthy prison term.
All three manslaughter charges are like any other criminal charges in this respect: To convict you of a manslaughter charge, a prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
How Will an Attorney Defend Someone Accused of Manslaughter?
If you are charged with manslaughter in Southern California, a Rosemead manslaughter attorney will review the facts and evidence in the case and develop an aggressive, appropriate, and effective strategy for your defense.
Your attorney’s first step, in most manslaughter cases, will be seeking to have the charge dropped or the case dismissed. If that’s not possible, and if you are innocent of the charge, insist on your right to a trial by jury. The usual defenses against a manslaughter charge include:
- Self-defense and the defense of another: The law in California allows the killing of another person if the defendant reasonably believed that the killing was required to prevent a death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or to a third person.
- “Imperfect” self-defense: Imperfect self-defense may be offered if your belief that force was necessary was not in fact reasonable at that moment. Imperfect self-defense will not result in an acquittal on a manslaughter charge but may mean a reduced sentence.
- Accidental involuntary manslaughter: You can’t be convicted of manslaughter if you killed someone by accident, you were acting lawfully, no negligence or recklessness was involved, and you had no intent to harm the decedent.
- Insufficient evidence: If your Rosemead criminal defense lawyer can successfully show that there is not enough evidence to prove that you caused the decedent’s death or to prove that you were acting negligently, you can’t be convicted of manslaughter.
If You Are Charged With Manslaughter
If the evidence against you is conclusive and a manslaughter conviction is inevitable, instead of a jury trial, your attorney may recommend seeking and accepting a plea bargain. In most plea bargains, defendants plead guilty to a lesser charge and receive reduced or alternative sentencing.
A manslaughter conviction carries harsh legal consequences as well as extra-legal ramifications. Your family could be devastated. Your career could be ruined. If you hold a professional license, it will probably be revoked. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, you could face deportation.
If you’re targeted by a manslaughter investigation, or if you have already been charged with manslaughter, exercise your right to remain silent, and don’t try to act as your own lawyer. Anything you say to the police can be used against you, and any mistakes could be catastrophic.
When you are facing a manslaughter charge in California or any other state, you must have skilled, experienced defense representation – a defense attorney who will provide you with sound legal advice, protect your rights, and bring your manslaughter case to its best possible resolution.