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Voluntary Manslaughter Charges Explained

by Shelby Wall

Receiving a voluntary manslaughter charge is serious business. A prosecutor or law enforcement officer feels there is enough evidence against you to charge you with the crime of killing another individual. 

What is Voluntary Manslaughter?

In California, the voluntary manslaughter definition involves taking someone’s life during an argument or in a moment of passion. The definition extends to include cases where someone kills someone else believing they’re acting in self-defense, when in reality, there is no need for self-defense. 

To convict someone of this offense, a prosecutor must prove all of the following:

  • Someone provoked the defendant
  • Due to the provocation, the defendant acted rashly, without consideration of the consequences or their own judgment
  • An average person would act rashly in a similar situation

The individual charged with voluntary manslaughter must act without malice or without an intentional, deliberate decision to kill another person. 

Voluntary manslaughter is one step below murder and one step above involuntary manslaughter. In certain situations, prosecutors sometimes offer defendants a reduced sentence with this charge, brought down from a murder charge.

For example, in People v. Borchers, a court reduced a murder charge to voluntary manslaughter. The man killed his romantic partner after a series of events, including her admitting to infidelity, trying to jump from his moving vehicle, and threatening to kill herself with a gun. The woman gave the man the gun and told him he was too “chicken” to kill her. 

He pulled the trigger, and she died. Prosecutors initially charged him with murder but reduced the charges to voluntary manslaughter after learning of the events before her death. 

There are defenses available to these manslaughter charges. Some of the most common include acting in self-defense, insanity, and accidental killing. Your criminal defense attorney can review your case to determine the most appropriate defense. 

Is Voluntary Manslaughter a Felony?

Yes, voluntary manslaughter is a felony in Orange County, California. Individuals convicted of this type of manslaughter will permanently carry the felony charge on their record unless they can get the charge removed through the expungement process. 

Generally, expungement is only possible if the individual did not serve time in a California state prison and completes their full probation without any violations.

Avoiding a felony charge is critical, as it can negatively impact your reputation and ability to find employment, among other things.

How Long is a Voluntary Manslaughter Sentence?

Individuals convicted of voluntary manslaughter face probation along with up to one year in county jail or up to 11 years in state prison. Any type of murder or manslaughter is a serious charge. You’ll need the assistance of a qualified lawyer to defend you.

Criminal Defense in Orange County, CA

Ronald G. Brower is a leading criminal defense attorney in Southern California. He’s received numerous honors for his work, including recognition as one of the Best Lawyers in America and the Top Attorneys in Orange County. For over 45 years, he’s represented clients facing various criminal charges, including voluntary manslaughter.

If you need defense representation for a criminal charge, Ronald G. Bower can help. Contact him to get started on your case today.

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