What’s the difference between Murder, Voluntary Manslaughter, and Involuntary Manslaughter under California Law?

Under California law, murder can be classified as either first-degree or second-degree murder — and in some rare cases, capital murder. Manslaughter, on the other hand, can be voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, or it can be vehicular manslaughter if a person was killed due to someone else’s reckless driving.

These distinctions are important to note because they determine the punishment for these crimes, which could range from probation to life in prison. Read on to learn about these distinctions and how they apply to each type of crime under California law.

What is Murder?

Under California Penal Code [CPC] §187, murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice. To be convicted of murder, it must be proved that the perpetrator had the intent to kill or cause great bodily injury without any provocation from the victim.

If you are found guilty of a first or second-degree murder in California, you could face life without parole. Factors like a murder of a government official or a key witness and murdering for financial gain or gang enhancement can even make your charge punishable by the death sentence.

What is Voluntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter is when a person kills another person in the heat of passion. The defendant must have been strongly provoked by some act that would provoke an ordinary reasonable person to lose control. It is not necessary that there be any intent to kill on the part of the defendant.

To cite an example of voluntary manslaughter, a man comes home to find his wife cheating on him and kills the unfaithful spouse while in a state of violent frenzy before he can calm down.

If you are found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, you could receive a sentence of imprisonment in state prison for up to 11 years.

What is Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing that results from gross negligence or recklessness but no intent to kill or malice aforethought. A fatal drunk driving accident is a commonly cited example of involuntary manslaughter in California. The driver acted grossly negligent when driving under the influence, and that negligence resulted in the other person’s death.

The penalty for involuntary manslaughter is up to four years in state prison.

Murder Manslaughter

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are up against manslaughter or murder charges, your rights, freedom, and future are all at risk. One wrong step and you could be put behind bars for years, your reputation ruined, and your livelihood in jeopardy. Therefore, if you are charged with any homicide in California, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Your attorney can help you understand your rights and build a case on your behalf.

At the Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, our team of expert criminal defense lawyers is dedicated to fighting aggressively for our clients’ rights. To schedule a consultation with a lawyer at our firm, call us at (310) 448-1529 or contact us online. Located in Westside Towers in LA, our office is minutes from Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Westwood and steps away from the Expo/Bundy Station. We have flexible hours and offer weekend appointments, and we will visit you in jail for consultation on your case.

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