Manslaughter (Penal Code Section 192)

When a person kills another without the intent to kill that person, but does so in a heat of passion (voluntary manslaughter) or due to negligence or during the commission of certain unlawful acts (involuntary manslaughter), it is manslaughter under California Penal Code section 192, subdivisions (a) and (b). Manslaughter may also be charged under Penal Code section 192, subdivision (c) when the death of another person is caused by grossly negligent or unlawful driving. This type of manslaughter, known as vehicular manslaughter is discussed more thoroughly under the section on this website headed "Vehicular Manslaughter."

Even when the manslaughter is involuntary, it is a very serious charge requiring the immediate assistance of an experienced Orange County manslaughter defense attorney. A good defense can result in the dismissal or reduction of charges or, if convicted, a sentence on the low end of possible punishments.

I am an experienced criminal defense attorney with proven results and I promise to vigorously defend your rights to the full extent of the law. I have successfully defended hundreds of clients, including those charged with manslaughter. Contact me at any time to set up a confidential consultation with a manslaughter defense attorney in Orange County without charge. I will work with you and your family to provide a fee structure that best suits your circumstances.

Voluntary Manslaughter

The classic scenario that everyone knows is the husband who comes home and finds his wife in bed with another man then grabs his gun and kills the other man. Even though he killed the man voluntarily, he had no prior intention or plan to do so; he killed him in a "heat of passion." This is not the only example of voluntary manslaughter; other examples might include someone having an argument with another and getting so angry that he or she punches the other person in a way that causes that person's death or someone getting so panicked over a trespasser who will not leave his or her property that he or she picks up a gun and shoots the trespasser.

The crucial distinction in any charge for voluntary manslaughter as opposed to a charge of murder is that something provoked a person's emotions to the extent that his or her judgment was overcome by those emotions in a way that would cause any ordinary person to act rashly and without deliberation. The provocation must be enough that it would cause a person of average temperament, faced with the same situation, to be provoked (that does not mean the average person would kill, just that he or she would be provoked by the circumstances). If the intense emotion has subsided, that is, if someone who was provoked "cooled off," but he or she still kills the person who provoked him or her, it is no longer manslaughter, but murder.

Involuntary Manslaughter

When someone kills another without the intent to do so and without acting with a conscious disregard for human life, it is involuntary manslaughter. That sounds a bit complicated but all it means is that involuntary manslaughter requires that the person committing the act did not mean to kill someone else and when he or she committed the act that resulted in the death of another, he or she was not aware that his or her act created the risk that someone would die as a result of the act. When someone commits an act with the knowledge that the act endangers the life of another but chooses to ignore the risk to human life, the act is murder (or voluntary manslaughter if committed in the heat of passion as described above); otherwise in is involuntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is committed when the act that resulted in the death of another was committed 1) in an unlawful manner or 2) with criminal negligence. An unlawful act, for these purposes, is an infraction or a misdemeanor (and in rare cases, a felony, buy only if the felony act is inherently not dangerous). "Criminal negligence" does not mean committing an unlawful act; rather, it defines an act that is reckless and creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury which is committed in a way that is so different from typically careful behavior that it amounts to a disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of the act. In other words, it is more than just ordinary carelessness, inattention, or a mistake in judgment. A manslaughter defense lawyer in Orange County can guide you through the nuances of these distinctions.

An example of involuntary manslaughter that almost everyone knows about is the case of Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, who was charged and convicted with involuntary manslaughter after he prescribed drugs to Mr. Jackson that caused Mr. Jackson's death. While it is a legal act for a doctor to prescribe drugs, the prosecution charged that Dr. Murray acted recklessly in doing so and in a manner that a typically careful doctor would not.


Voluntary manslaughter is a felony that carries a sentence of three, six, or eleven years imprisonment in the state prison. A conviction on voluntary manslaughter also has the potential to add a strike to your criminal record, which may result in a harsher penalty depending upon your criminal record.

Involuntary manslaughter is also a felony carrying a sentence of two, three, or four years imprisonment in the state prison or formal probation and up to one year in county jail. Other punishments may also apply. An Orange County manslaughter defense lawyer can help you try to avert or reduce the consequences of a charge.

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