Manslaughter is a legal term for the killing of a human in way that is considered less culpable than murder. Mens rea, or state of mind, is the variable the law uses to distinguish between different levels of severity when the death of another person occurs. In contrast with manslaughter, murder requires malice aforethought or malice, both of which involve meditation on the death of another. With a murder case that only involves malice aforethought, there is no intention to kill but a willful disregard for life exists. In contrast, manslaughter requires that neither of these preconditions were present. It is divided into two categories of voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter involves situations in which a person may have had intention to kill but their judgment was clouded by mitigating factors, including their state of mind. A common example of this type of charge is in heat of passion killings, where a person discovers their lover is unfaithful or a parent sees their child being attacked.
Defenses for this type of killing include provocation, heat of passion, imperfect self-defense, and diminished responsibility. In provocation and heat of the moment, most reasonable people would respond in an angry manner, possibly slaughtering the offender without reflection. In imperfect self-defense, the killer acted with an honest but unreasonable idea that self protection justified the death. Diminished responsibility is another claim that can lessen charges from murder to manslaughter. However, most states critically scrutinize the killer’s state of mind in order to deduce if any malicious intent existed. In many states, this defense is difficult to prove, if even an admissible, way to lessen the charge.
Involuntary manslaughter includes situations with no deadly intention but recklessness or criminal negligence resulting in death. Recklessness is defined as disregard for the known dangers of a particular situation. Vehicular manslaughter happens when a person violates safety rules, including driving while under the influence. Misdemeanor manslaughter describes a less serious version of felony murder, in which a person kills another while committing a misdemeanor. If the violated misdemeanor involved a law designed to protect a life, the charge may automatically be upgraded to a homicide offense. Additionally, some states also consider assisted suicide as a type of punishable offense.
Death occurring from simple negligence can apply to a variety of areas. It is often times someone being negligent of their work duties. This may include a person who does not properly maintain medical tools.
All of these charges carry harsh consequences. If convicted, years of jail time may be required. Conviction will almost certainly change a person’s entire life. Fortunately, an experienced defense attorney can help you fight the charges you are facing and work to protect your rights and freedoms.