Have you been accused of manslaughter? What is manslaughter? Did you kill someone recklessly? Are you looking to find a way to lessen the charges? Read this article to know all you need.
Murder, manslaughter, and homicide all have one thing in common-bloodshed. Although manslaughter is not as heinous as murder, it still has consequences. You may ask why isn’t it as blatant when both involve the death of an individual. Let me clarify it for you. Manslaughter accidentally leads to an individual’s death, whereas murder is premeditated.
So how could killing someone would not be considered murder? There are many reasons for that. Sometimes killing happens because of a car accident, and sometimes it might be in self-defense. For instance, if a man is forcing you or groping you, what will you do in this case? Hit the nearest object and run. These cases are not intentional; they are committed under challenging situations. Thus, they are not called murders but “manslaughter.”
Differentiating between terms involving killing is difficult for a third person. However, manslaughter has some differences that need to be understood. Thus, before moving toward the comparison, it is crucial to know what is manslaughter. What is a manslaughter sentence? And what is manslaughter charges? So read ahead and clear your confusion about manslaughter!
Table of Contents
What is manslaughter?
The first and foremost thing to know is what is manslaughter. If you are not aware of minor details of manslaughter, then it would be difficult for you to understand further. Let’s move to the point. So manslaughter is the killing of a person without premeditation or malice aforethought. It is the legal term to recognize a misdemeanor of killing someone without the intention of causing harm.
A manslaughter is a form of homicide. It can be said that manslaughter sometimes involves intentions of harming an individual, but it does not involve premeditation. Due to the lack of choice, manslaughter is not considered first-degree murder. Most common circumstances of manslaughter apply to drink and drive cases. For instance, if you are going after being drunk and hitting a man resulting in killing him, you will be charged with manslaughter.
Manslaughter is a legal term for killing someone without malice, and it often occurs when there is a sudden heat of passion or a fight. Though manslaughter is a serious crime, it faces less severe charges.
What are the degrees of manslaughter?
So after knowing what is manslaughter, it is time to move toward the degrees of manslaughter. Unlike murder, manslaughter has two degrees.
In first-degree manslaughter, there is an intention of harming an individual. There might be an intention of hurting an individual or causing severe injuries that may lead to death.
Second-degree manslaughter involves the reckless killing of an individual with actions you knew would harm an individual Recklessness leads to another individual’s death. For instance, you are highly intoxicated and unstable but still decide to drive a car. This is considered a reckless act because you are aware of potential dangers you might cause to yourself or others but continue your actions.
Types of manslaughter
Yes, there is a difference between the degrees and types of manslaughter. Manslaughter is also of two types.
As the name suggests, voluntary manslaughter includes killing to hurt an individual. It is often referred to as the heat of passion. Voluntary manslaughter is majorly associated with the provocation of fights. For example, if an individual has called you names and harassed you. As a result, you get angry and blow a strong punch in their face, causing their death.
It usually takes place when an individual is emotionally overwhelmed and impacted. Catching your spouse cheating is likely to cause anger resulting in killing them. In such cases, the alleged do not get the time to plan the murder. Hence they act spontaneously. To prove the crime of voluntary manslaughter, it is essential to have significant evidence of argument instead of a small fight.
Moreover, if the killing and the argument or provocative situation have significant time gaps, the death will be charged as murder. Therefore, if someone claims to have committed manslaughter and not murder, there must be an actual provocating event.
Involuntary manslaughter is reckless or negligent killing. It is an unintentional crime that results in the killing of a person. For instance, you drive on the street at more than the required speed and suddenly see a man walking. You don’t get the time to hit the break, and you involuntarily kill that person. This will be categorized as involuntary or vehicular manslaughter. However, involuntary manslaughter can lie under two cases.
There is a possibility of manslaughter in gross negligence when death is caused to harm or an act of hurting someone, which becomes fatal and results in death. It involves negligence circumstances that are responsible for manslaughter. Although it is an unlawful act, it happens due to the rise of unplanned situations, leaving you in utter shock.
These will be followed by criminal punishment according to the crime and the intensity of the crime. You will be proven an offense of gross negligence manslaughter if you fail to provide evidence to the prosecution. In short, it is caused involuntarily because of one’s negligent behavior. Following are some points which may lead to punishment.
- You were unable to fulfill the duty assigned, resulting in the death of an individual.
- Your duty of care to the deceased.
- A negligent act of yours can lead to the demise of an individual.
As the name suggests, you might be involved in a harmful activity that can result in the slaughtering of an individual. For instance, involvement in an illegal business causes the killing of your brother.
It is manslaughter by unlawful means and with the committing of an involuntary act. So there are two circumstances, “unlawful” and “dangerous”; thus, you will be held responsible for the death. It is usually provided that a rational person would not have committed such an act when keeping the consequences in mind. However, in this case, you can be convicted of murder if you don’t have enough proof.
Following are the conditions in which you will be held guilty of manslaughter:
- Your deliberate action resulted in the death of a person.
- The committed act was dangerous.
- The deed was hazardous and fatal to the victim.
Circumstances for manslaughter
There are five different situations associated with manslaughter:
Reckless means an unwise or unconsidered act. In the case of manslaughter, if the killing is irresponsible, it means that the death caused has complete control over your actions, and you have used the most brutal way to do the deed. The following things must be proven when you have been charged with reckless manslaughter.
- You were aware of your actions and that they will cause serious injuries or death of an individual.
- Your reckless actions resulted in the demise of a person.
For instance, two friends played cricket in a park full of children. One of the people hit the ball, which landed on a child’s head, causing him to bleed to death. In this case, both individuals were aware they could hurt a child even though they kept playing with their game and killed a child recklessly.
In another case, we take the example of a morphine-dosed individual driving a car. He is aware that he cannot go and can hurt someone. He crashes his car into a bike, causing the person on the bike to fall and die. The dosed person will be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
Killing an unborn child
Killing a child and that too unborn is the most heinous crime. Many individuals, who are not ready for a child or want to get rid of responsibility, might take steps to kill a child. If this is the circumstance, you will be charged under the following circumstances:
- The accused was aware of the mother’s pregnancy.
- The blame caused injury to the mother of an unborn child knowing that the baby could die.
However, there are a few exceptions to these circumstances. Some states allow killing children only by authorized people, like considering a medical abortion. It also involves people who perform medical treatments on the child or the mother.
The heat of passion
Have you ever felt a sudden rage? Have you ever been in an argument that might have resulted in a huge fight? But do you know where it will lead you? You might end up being killed or killing someone else. It could lead to grave punishments like heavy fines and prison because it is manslaughter.
In this situation, the state is bound to prove the following things to charge you guilty:
- You acted in sudden rage or heat of passion.
- Your killing was intentional.
- An event provoked you to do such a thing.
Suicide aiding is helping someone (intentionally or unintentionally). For instance, a victim has used her gun or knife to commit suicide. If it hadn’t been your fault and the victim stole that weapon. You will have to prove it with solid evidence. You can be charged with suicide aiding if the following allegations are proven:
- You know that a person has the intention to commit suicide.
- You intentionally provided mean to another person who could help him attempt suicide.
For instance, you have a schizophrenic patient who asks you to prescribe medicine you know is fatal for him, but you prescribe him anyway. Later that day, he will commit suicide with that, and you will be charged with manslaughter.
Forcing someone and causing death in the struggle is often seen as second-degree murder, which is compensated as manslaughter. In this case, the suspect is under pressure to kill someone. For instance, someone kidnapped your child and asked you to kill a third person to release your son. You do as you were told, and thus, it will be a second-degree murder dropped down to manslaughter. It is also referred to as compulsion.
You execute reckless actions by showing indifference towards the human race. However, you are forced to perform such activities. Thus, your sentence will be decreased to that of manslaughter. Meanwhile, in some states of the United States, using coercion as your defense is not eligible.
Defenses to manslaughter
As discussed above, manslaughter can be committed under various circumstances with various influences. However, every case is a solid defense to rest your case or to lessen your sentence. Below is a list of some justifications you can put forward to be released from the charges of manslaughter.
Most cases are closed because of a lack of evidence or less investigation at the time of the offense. For instance, a murder occurred a year ago, and a year later, the judge released the offender because no more evidence was left on the site. This is one of the most cliche defenses for almost all murder charges.
You will need a good and experienced defense lawyer in this case. He will walk you through all the necessary case details and how this type of defense can be made in this situation. For instance, your lawyer can help you to attack the reliability of the evidence available at the murder site. Once the proof is weakened, there are chances of the case being dropped.
It might include collecting physical evidence, securing eyewitnesses, reconstructing the site, DNA or blood test results, and securing the crime scenes.
Shifting the blame
It is the most common to blame someone or something else for the offender’s defense. The offender will have to prove that he was not the cause of death or any injury that led to an individual’s death. For instance, you fought, and in that heat of passion, you stabbed a person. He is immediately rushed to the hospital but dies in a car accident. You will be charged with manslaughter, but your defense will be that his death resulted from a car accident, not a stabbing.
In another situation, you shot a man, but the victim was robbed and killed on his way to the hospital. Your defense will be the robbery, not your gunshot, as it caused the death.
Not reckless killing
As we have previously discussed, reckless killing deserves punishment just according to the intensity of the offense. Suppose you have been charged with reckless manslaughter. In that case, your defense lawyer can put forward the defense of you not being careless and your behavior was not on the level of recklessness. The prosecution overcharged or overanalyzed the situation.
You would be charged less if your act was criminally negligent and not reckless. You might be charged with negligent homicide instead of reckless manslaughter. For instance, you are a magician prepared to perform the KNIFE THROWING trick in front of an audience. During that time, you are blinded with a cloth, and you land a knife on the girl’s chest leading to her death. In this case, you will be charged with reckless homicide, but you can defend it as negligent homicide.
What’s the difference between manslaughter and murder?
You might think that both manslaughter and murder involve killing and bloodshed then. How could it be different? They differ in various ways:
- What are your intentions?
- Was there any malice aforethought?
- Is it premeditated?
If you have a bad intention of killing a person, but the killing occurs in the spur of the moment or heat of passion, it might be categorized as murder. However, for manslaughter, you will not have any bad intentions towards an individual; the killing is just a heat of passion during an argument.
Furthermore, first-degree murder involves a premeditated killing means the murder has to be plotted according to the situation or by predicting the upcoming circumstances. Whereas in manslaughter, this is not the case. However, manslaughter might include the conditions like -recklessness, negligence, or accident.
How can a case for involuntary manslaughter be established?
You might now be aware of what is manslaughter mean and what its circumstances are. However, if you are still not sure what is manslaughter and on what conditions it is charged, this section will discuss it.
An individual will be charged with manslaughter when death is caused by a negligent act or recklessness, as described above. One can also be charged when the action he is performing is unlawful or dangerous, and he knows it can cause some severe injuries or death.
For instance, you kick a friend as a joke (what most guys do), but your friend loses his balance, falls from the third floor, and dies. You will be prosecuted for negligent homicide.
If manslaughter allegations are proved for you by the prosecution, you will be pleaded guilty to your crime and will be charged depending upon the type of manslaughter. However, the manslaughter charges can be reduced if the offender accepts and shows remorse over the offense. In other cases, a good lawyer can convince the prosecution to lessen the charges.
Factors for sentencing
Types of manslaughter significantly differ from one another. The seriousness of the crime can be predicted by considering some factors. The court will consider those factors and decide the charges according to them. These factors are divided into two types.
Mitigating factors are conditions that reduce the severity of the convicted person’s punishment. When the court considers the sentence for the condemned, they keep forth the mitigating factors that can lead to lessening the penalty. For instance, a ten-year sentence might be lowered to 5 years. Let’s have a look at those factors:
- Suffering from mental or physical illness
- No criminal history
- The convicted showed remorse and guilt for the act.
- Circumstances of the crime
- Indulged in community welfare
Other than mitigating factors, some aggravating factors will lead to strictness in penalties. It is the opposite of a mitigating factor. Where mitigating factors aid in lessening the sentence, aggravating factors increase the punishment; the following are some aggravating factors in involuntary manslaughter:
- Criminal history(previous murder charges or reckless behavior)
- The killing of a law enforcement officer on duty
- The reckless crime led to manslaughter.
- The killing of a minor or an elder
- Killing a physically or mentally ill person
Manslaughter laws in major states of the US
Laws and sentences for manslaughter vary from state to state in the US. However, there might be some similarities in some states. Below is the list of significant conditions with laws of manslaughter.
In Alabama, involuntary manslaughter is often categorized as criminally negligent homicide and is classified as a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for the crime is usually a year-long imprisonment with almost $5000 to $6000 fine.
Furthermore, if the manslaughter had occurred as a result of a car accident, but the driver was intoxicated, it would be classified as Class C Felony. In this case, the sentence will be a maximum of ten years with a fine of $10,000 to $15,000. However, if any aggravating factor is found against the convicted, the prosecution will raise charges to Class A or B felony.
In the case of California, vehicular manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter are considered two distinguished offenses with different punishments. Involuntary manslaughter will be a fine of up to $10,000 with two to four years imprisonment. Whereas for vehicular manslaughter, there are three further subdivisions of the case:
- The reckless crashing of the vehicle will result in five to ten years of imprisonment.
- Vehicular manslaughter as a grossly negligent, unlawful act will lead to imprisonment of up to six years.
- Vehicular slaughter in the absence of gross negligence will be sentenced to a year or less than that imprisonment.
For the state of Illinois, the criminal code categorizes manslaughter as a Class 3 felony. The imprisonment for the crime is about two to five years, whereas the fine is up to $25,000. Furthermore, reckless manslaughter has slightly different criteria, and its punishment might be raised to a Class 2 felony. In this case, consider the following points.
- If the offender has committed the offense in a school zone while refusing to comply with a law enforcement officer or in a construction zone, the imprisonment would be almost five to fourteen years.
- If more than one person is killed in a reckless homicide, for instance, in a car accident, the offender will be charged with Class 2 felony, and the sentence will be six to twenty-eight years.
- Lastly, if the person killed is a family member, a worker of emergency service, or a peace officer, the imprisonment will be raised to fourteen years.
What is manslaughter? Is it still a question to be asked? Certainly not if you have read all the details mentioned above. Whatever the case is for the killing, there is always a cost to pay for the bloodshed. There are numerous laws made to punish an individual. However, manslaughter has been divided into various types, and specific circumstances influence the period of the sentence.
In the United States, every state has slightly different laws. What is manslaughter mean? What is manslaughter sentence? What is manslaughter charges? All these questions have been answered in great detail. No matter what type of crime is committed, it is punishable concerning its intensity, whether voluntary or involuntary.