Difference between murder and manslaughter
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What are the penalties and potential legal defenses for voluntary manslaughter?

While the adage “The best defense is a good offense” is typically associated with military combat and sports (and is often attributed to Michael Jordan), it was first said by George Washington in 1799, “…offensive operations, often times, is the surest, if not the only means of defense.” 

Defense Strategies

As one might imagine, there are always defense options when dealing with any criminal offense, regardless of a defendant’s plea. In the case of voluntary manslaughter, and in accordance with California Penal Code 192, there are three primary defenses that are commonly used:

  • Acted in self-defense;
  • Was insane at the time of the killing; or
  • Killing was an accident

The State of California has three specific elements to the self-defense strategy and they are as follows:

  • The defendant was protecting them self from being killed;
  • Protecting from great bodily injury; or
  • Protecting from being sexually assaulted, maimed, robbed, or a victim of a forcible crime

The second category of defense is the insanity plea. In the State of California, a qualified defense attorney will attempt to show that the defendant killed another, but out of insanity. There are two primary elements of the insanity defense, and they are as follows:

  • The defendant did not understand the nature at the time of the criminal act; or
  • The defendant did not understand what he or she was doing was wrong

Finally, the third possible defense is that of an “accidental killing.”  A defendant in the State of California may not be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter if the killing was accidental, the there are three elements of this defense and they are as follows:

  • The defendant had no criminal intent of the killing; 
  • The defendant was not acting out of negligence at the time of the killing; or
  • The defendant was engaged in lawful behavior at the time of the killing

Typically, the biggest question a defendant may have is: “what are the possible consequences of a finding of guilt?” First, voluntary manslaughter is a felony in the State of California. This charge may be plead down as a lesser included offense from murder, which certainly lessens the possible maximum punishment. Generally speaking, the criminal court may impose any number of prison sentences from three to 11 years. Second, a conviction qualifies under California’s “three-strikes law.” Third, a defendant will lose their right to purchase and/or possess a firearm. Finally, there may be collateral orders such as community service, required programming such as anger management, substance abuse treatment, etc. 

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

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