A charge of manslaughter is a serious offense in California, which can conclude with a strict sentencing of multiple years in a California state prison and significant fines. Many may conflate this charge with murder, but they are actually two separate offenses, but both carry very severe sentences. California penal codes highlight a variety of different manslaughter charges and understanding their differences is vital to building a solid defense case.
Types of Manslaughter Charges
Within the state of California, there are three key manslaughter charges you could be facing, all of which are overseen by California Penal Code (PC) 192, and include:
- California Penal Code (PC) 192(a) – Voluntary Manslaughter
- California Penal Code (PC) 192(b) – Involuntary Manslaughter
- California Penal Code (PC) 192(c) – Vehicular Manslaughter
Each of these charges falls under California laws surrounding homicide and are defined as the “unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” However, these charges also have unique differences and penalties.
Voluntary manslaughter involves the killing of a person during a fight, quarrel, or under a heat of passion. This charge can be found in conjunction with domestic violence situations, bar fights, and other aggressive situations. Voluntary manslaughter requires some element of provocation and an intent to commit harm, but not death. A charge of voluntary manslaughter includes a punishment of three, six, or 11 years in a state prison.
In contrast to voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter involves the killing of an individual while a misdemeanor was being committed or a lawful act that could result in death if negligence was involved. The wording of this law demonstrates that there was no intent to commit violence, but violence occurred due to negligence or carelessness. Involuntary manslaughter charges include a sentence of two to four years in a state prison.
Vehicular manslaughter is the most complicated charge because of the various statutes that govern it. Generally, vehicular manslaughter is the killing of an individual while operating a vehicle, such as striking a pedestrian with a car or crashing your vehicle while driving under the influence, resulting in the death of another driver or passenger. This charge requires that the defendant acted with either ordinary negligence or gross negligence. This charge is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Depending on the circumstances of the crime, you may be facing the following charges:
- If charged with ordinary negligence, then this crime is a misdemeanor, and you could be sentenced to a maximum of one year in a county jail.
- If charged with gross negligence, then this crime is a felony, and you could be sentenced to four, six, or 10 years in a state prison.
Other punishments, such as a suspended license or requirements to a complete substance abuse program, may also be incurred.
Understanding Your Rights
A manslaughter charge can not only result in a serious prison sentence, but it can also impact your ability to find work, apply for housing, and sustain a living once you have left prison. Employing a skilled criminal defense attorney is the first step towards ensuring a lesser sentence or total dismissal of your case.
If you have been charged with manslaughter, immediately contact the Law Offices of Michael L. Guisti. Every case of manslaughter is different. Our legal team understands this and will investigate every angle to ensure no detail is missed, whether it was a case of self-defense or a tragic accident. Call us at (714) 530-9690 to begin building a strong legal defense.