Manslaughter charges result in serious outcomes for involved parties, including incarceration for long durations. This is because the offense involves taking the life of the alleged victim, which is irreversible and a violation of one of the strictest laws in the state. Therefore, persons facing accusations of involvement in manslaughter need an elaborate defense strategy to help them overcome the prosecutor’s case presented against them. Further, working with a criminal defense lawyer helps you obtain sufficient evidence to build your credibility. Therefore, you want to choose a lawyer who has your best interests in mind and is willing to conduct due diligence to improve your chances of receiving a favorable case outcome. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, you will access the best criminal defense services available, thanks to our highly skilled and well-experienced team. Over the years, we have helped persons facing manslaughter accusations in Anaheim, California, present their cases and obtain a positive judgment.
The Nature of a Manslaughter Charge
The California Penal Code provides for different types of offenses, including manslaughter. The crime involves killing a person illegally but without malice aforethought in undertaking violent actions. Under section 192 of the penal code, the offense termed voluntary manslaughter is a less severe crime compared to murder. Although both offenses involve killing a human being, the distinction is that murder requires the accused person to have had malice aforethought, while manslaughter offenders do not.
The term malice aforethought represents a person’s thought process before executing an action. Therefore, it may include forming the intention to kill a human being or premeditating upon the types of preparation activities you intend to undertake before killing the victim. For example, buying cleaning agents in anticipation of cleaning off a crime scene can be taken as intended actions, as the motivating factor for the purchase is committing murder.
You should also note that killing a human being may also be classified as murder if the prosecutor shows you lack regard for human life. This means you cannot understand the importance of preserving life and therefore act recklessly.
It is essential to show the distinction between murder and manslaughter by elaborating on what malice aforethought entails, as you will better understand the types of accusations you may face.
On top of this, you want to learn of the various circumstances that may result in your arrest and conviction for committing manslaughter to distinguish it from murder. Based on different case circumstances, the following are the two main circumstances where manslaughter charges are entered against you, with a high likelihood of conviction if found guilty:
Where You Were Involved in an Emotive Aggression
Typically, human beings are emotive, meaning that they may easily be carried away by a heated argument or extreme passion when dealing with another person. Consequently, they may result in violent actions that end the life of one of the confronted parties.
For example, when a person finds out that their partner was unfaithful to them, their initial reaction may be heated, pushing them to act outrageously and even include violence. Due to this, the attacked party may succumb to the harsh advances and die. This would then result in a manslaughter case.
Moments engulfed in the heat of passion do not need to cause the parties to act drastically. Sometimes, the confrontation may have escalated into an argument, making the parties violent. The circumstances will still be considered relevant to a manslaughter offense as long as the prosecutor can successfully prove that the accused was involved in all elements of the crime.
Where You Applied Unreasonable Force in Self-Defense
Alternatively, you may face manslaughter charges where you applied extreme force in self-defense. Usually, you are allowed to protect yourself from impending danger, provided you apply reasonable force, as discussed below. However, some parties may believe to be in greater danger than is apparent, pushing them to resort to more violent actions.
If so, the person who died will have been unlawfully killed, as the person acting in self-defense will have used extra force than necessary. For example, shooting someone approaching you to their death without establishing if they pose any threat is treated as manslaughter.
Although you will not have formed the intention to kill, your actions are still perceived as extreme and unlawful. This is especially true if you possessed the firearm in an unauthorized area in the example above. Therefore, the prosecutor ought to look into different case circumstances to determine the best approach to take when presenting a case against you.
Elements of Crime for the Prosecutor to Prove
Once you face arrest and your matter is forwarded to the prosecutor, they are responsible for proving that you are guilty before the presiding judge or jury. To do this, the prosecution team must adhere to the principles and guidelines of a criminal trial, on top of the standards for admissible evidence that they must uphold.
Usually, criminal cases require the prosecutor to act on behalf of the aggrieved person and the state in presenting a case against you. This is because the complainant’s loved ones may be in a disadvantaged position if they were to present a case themselves. Thus, criminal procedure rules impose the prosecutor's burden of proof to show that you are answerable for the manslaughter accusations.
Apart from taking up the burden of proof, the prosecutor must also establish your participation in all elements of the crime to meet the standard of evidence imposed. Usually, the court expects the prosecutor’s presentation to show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that no alternate explanations or evidence should be enough to deter the prosecutor’s case, and if it does, their presentation will be unsuccessful.
With these high standards, the prosecutor will focus on fulfilling the criminal case requirements adequately. Thus, you also want to understand the various strategies used in the case to help you prepare an elaborate defense. You can anticipate the prosecutor’s argument points and provide reasonable defenses against them. The three main elements of crime in manslaughter cases are:
You Faced Some Provocation
Most manslaughter cases arise where the accused acts in the heat of the moment or in self-defense. Hence, the prosecutor must show that you were provoked by either set of circumstances, prompting you to retaliate violently. Proving this element of crime will also be essential in pinning the offense to you, as it demonstrates the reasoning behind your actions.
Provocation may occur in various ways, depending on the case circumstances. For example, someone may have used insulting words against you, triggering anger and the urge to retaliate. Although the alteration may have begun verbally, it may have resulted in physical fights that presented the chance to have the alleged victim dead.
Alternatively, provocation may occur where false information is said against you, causing you to defend yourself by retaliation. If so, the probable violence and improper conduct may also have played a significant role in the manslaughter incident afterward.
You should also note that provocation may trigger a response requiring you to defend yourself, especially if the perpetrator appears to have more power over you. Therefore, your reaction will be based on the initially perceived threat that caused you to act violently or without thinking.
In court, the prosecutor may rely on various evidential sources to prove this crime element. Firstly, they may call on witnesses to testify on the circumstances leading to the provocation. If your case involved a violent altercation, they might testify on the specific words said against you that triggered your reaction.
Similarly, the prosecutor may also rely on surveillance footage that recorded the moments before your provocation if it is available. It becomes even more useful to help their case where the footage contains audio, as the specific words between you and the victim of your actions are clear.
Additional evidential sources are also admissible, depending on the prosecutor’s strategy. Thus, you want to remain keen on the different approaches to help you plan to present credible defenses.
Your Actions Were Rashed/Without Proper Thought Due to the Provocation
Secondly, the prosecutor must show that your reaction was thoughtless and conducted in the heat of passion based on the provocation you faced. Their goal in proving this element of the crime is to show that you acted without proper reasoning, which exposed the victim to a dangerous situation. They will have proved the unlawful of your actions, as you jeopardized the affected person’s safety.
Firstly, the prosecutor will focus on the type of actions you undertook after facing provocation and then link them to the triggering provocation. They do this to establish a credible connection between the two and show that your actions are primarily from your interactions with the victim and not any other reason.
For example, if you threw a heavy and blunt object at the victim, the prosecutor must establish that you did not think through your actions because you had just been revoked. They can do this by reconstructing the crime scene where the victim suffered harm. If the item was within your reach, it means you used it because it was the closest thing to help you express your anger. Subsequently, the prosecutor may successfully show your guilt in the violent action.
Similarly, where you reasonably believed to face imminent danger, the prosecutor should also show that you acted irrationally and caused the manslaughter. For example, if the victim was trying to scare you as a prank, but you harmed them to their death, your actions will have been without proper reasoning. This is because you ought to have paused or stopped your attacks soon after observing the causal nature of the victim’s actions.
You should note that actions in self-defense are allowed under the law, especially if you genuinely believe in having been in danger. Nevertheless, the prosecutor will adopt different ways to build their case to prove your culpability in the offense. Therefore, your criminal defense attorney should remain versatile with their argument strategies to ensure your defenses are credible.
Analyzing the reaction time between the acts of provocation and your reactions will also guide the prosecutor in building their case. If an accused party took time to cool off or think about how to retaliate against the victim, the case facts might transform into a murder charge.
A court’s reasoning for this would be that you will have had enough time to form malice aforethought, meaning you will have premeditated on the possible ways to react to the provocation you faced. Thus, if you took some time away from the provoking party and then retaliated, you are likely to face different charges, changing the entire course of your case.
Your Reaction is Expected from a Reasonable Person Facing Similar Provocation
Lastly, the prosecutor must show that you reacted commonly, meaning that you are more likely than not to have committed manslaughter after facing the provocation. Proving this crime element is crucial to the prosecutor’s case development because it shows that the accusations against you are well-founded. Further, it justifies the two other elements of crime presented against you, making the case conclusive. Therefore, the prosecutor will rely on several approaches to establish this element.
Firstly, they will elaborate on the type of reaction you had after provocation if needed. For example, if you shoot the victim, the prosecutor can present the number of shots fired and the type of weapon you used during the unreasonable retaliation. The extra details provided may demonstrate whether your matter falls within the standard statistics or requires additional scrutiny due to the use of extreme force.
Furthermore, the evidence available against you will support the prosecutor's case. If they have proof that you acted alone based on the triggers from provocation, the prosecutor can compare the evidence before the court to other previous cases. This is especially useful where a previously decided case presented the same case facts as what is currently before the judge. Hence, you can expect the prosecutor to focus on matters with similar facts for a stronger approach to proving your matter.
Additional statistics on manslaughter cases in California may also form a reliable source of evidence for the prosecutor in showing that your reaction is expected from a reasonable person under the same circumstances.
The details will introduce a new perspective to your case, proving that your actions were within the expected unlawful reaction that results in multiple manslaughter cases annually. In proving these details, the prosecutor may succeed in requesting the judge to find you guilty in pursuit of upholding judicial precedent.
Defenses Applicable to a Manslaughter Charge
After the prosecutor concludes their case presentation, you will have a chance to present your defenses and counter the accusations raised against you. This allowance enables you to exercise your right to a fair hearing, whereby the accused must also be accorded a chance to defend themselves.
Thanks to the allowance, you have a chance to challenge the prosecutor’s position and hopefully change the course of your case in your favor. However, doing this requires adequate planning and access to sufficient evidence on the points you intend to present before the judge or jury.
Working with a criminal defense lawyer is therefore highly advisable, as it enables you to access the best assistance in sourcing all the information you need. Furthermore, your attorney plays a pivotal role in ensuring you draft and present the evidence relied on coherently to secure a favorable case outcome.
You should note that although you may have several defenses at your disposal, you want to choose those that align with your case facts and present the best defense argument for you. This is because choosing multiple defenses at a time may jeopardize your credibility, as you may appear to have inconsistent case facts.
For example, arguing that you were wrongfully accused and then relying on self-defense will contradict yourself. Hence, your criminal defense attorney should guide you in picking the next arguments.
Applicable defenses for parties facing manslaughter charges include:
Your Actions Were Accidental
All criminal cases require the prosecutor to prove that the accused acted with a criminal intention to break the law. This means that your actions must be deliberate to avoid any chances of an accidental occurrence resulting in incarceration. Based on the requirements, claiming that your actions resulted from an accident can play a pivotal role in helping you avoid culpability for manslaughter charges.
When presenting this defense, you want to show sufficient proof of the actions or movements leading to an unforeseen killing. For example, if you pulled a gun trigger by mistake or based on the genuine knowledge that the magazine was empty, you may rely on the defense.
However, you should remember that the prosecutor is likely to challenge your claims during cross-examination, especially if they are not well-proven. Thus, you want to incorporate different evidential sources, from witness testimonies to slowed-down footage that shows what occurred.
You Acted in Self-Defense
Self-defense is also an acceptable argument to justify your actions that resulted in manslaughter. However, criminal law rules impose various threshold requirements for anyone seeking to rely on the defense to ensure that it is well applied. Therefore, your criminal defense attorney will be instrumental in helping you ensure you meet the requirements to avoid casting any doubts on your credibility.
Firstly, you ought to have genuinely believed in being in danger before choosing to defend yourself. This means that you lacked any other way to avert the harm by running away or hiding, forcing you to confront the potential attacker.
Secondly, the force used in defending yourself should be reasonably proportional to the danger you face. Meeting this second requirement in manslaughter charges is often tricky, as the victim has already died due to your actions. Therefore, you need to justify your retaliation by showing that your life was also in danger, so it became a question of who would have their way first. If you provide proof of the threats to your life, the judge will likely issue a verdict in your favor.
You Suffered from Temporary Insanity During the Manslaughter Actions
Moreover, accused persons can use the defense of temporary insanity to avert criminal penalties after a manslaughter charge. Using this defense, you will argue that you were not in your right state of mind, so your actions should not be associated with you.
There are several ways for one to become temporarily insane, including excessive drinking or using drugs that completely change your behavior. The judge and jury must be convinced that you were in a different mind when committing manslaughter. You must show that you were so insane that you did not know what you were doing. This would allude to the fact that you had a mental blackout, where your actions were inconceivable to you.
Alternatively, you can also prove that you were so insane that you did not understand what you were doing was wrong. The judge will check your regard for morality based on actions before or after the manslaughter. In doing so, they will determine the veracity of your claims.
Penalties for Committing Manslaughter
The offense of manslaughter is classified as a felony in California, meaning that it attracts serious outcomes for guilty parties. They include:
Paying fine of up to $10000.
Serving a prison sentence that ranges from three, six, or eleven years.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
When you or a loved one faces manslaughter charges, you want to defend yourself to your best capacity to help you avoid facing the harsh penalties set out. Therefore, you should aim to work with the best criminal defense attorney available in your area. They will help you analyze your case facts and prepare solid defenses for your reliance during the trial. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, you can expect to receive excellent criminal defense services tailored to meet your case needs. The assigned attorney will be equipped with the necessary resources and experience to help you counter the prosecutor’s allegations. This way, you have a better chance of receiving a favorable case outcome to your benefit. Our services are available to any person facing manslaughter charges in Anaheim, California, and you can reach us at 714-766-0965.