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Involuntary Manslaughter

The California PC 192b outlines the crime of involuntary manslaughter. You may be guilty of involuntary manslaughter if you unintentionally kill another person. You may kill another person by committing a crime that does not qualify as a dangerous felony. You may also kill another person through an unlawful act, which is likely to cause death without due caution. You do not need to have had the intent to kill another person for you to face involuntary manslaughter charges. The crime of murder requires you to have malice aforethought while killing another person, but involuntary manslaughter does not need you to have intent.  If you are facing involuntary manslaughter charges, Leah Legal can help you fight the charges by coming up with a convincing defense strategy.

Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter

For the prosecutor to accuse you of the crime of involuntary manslaughter, he/she has to prove several elements of the crime.  It must be evident that you are guilty of committing a crime other than an inherently dangerous felony. The crime may be either a misdemeanor or an infraction. You may also be guilty of performing a lawful act unlawfully.  The prosecutor must also prove that you committed the said crime with criminal negligence.  The prosecutor must finally prove that your lawful or unlawful acts led to the death of another person. 

You will only face the charges for involuntary manslaughter if you do something wrong and cause the death of another individual in the process. In the case of a pure accident, you may not face charges. The wrongful act leading to the death of another person may be an infraction. An infraction is a low level of crime in California that does not attract severe penalties. In most cases, the applicable penalty for an infraction is fine.  The wrongful act may also be a California misdemeanor. Depending on the nature of the wrongful act, the act may qualify as a felony, which is not inherently dangerous. The wrong act may also be a lawful act that does not qualify as a crime but done unlawfully.

You may kill another person while committing an inherently dangerous felony. In this case, you are going to face enhanced charges. Instead of receiving involuntary manslaughter charges, you may face murder charges under California law.  This is following the California felony-murder rule. 

For you to face charges for involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove in court that you acted in criminal negligence. It does not matter whether your crime is based on an underlying crime or an underlying lawful act. Criminal negligence is more enhanced than normal or ordinary negligence. Criminal negligence exceeds ordinary carelessness, a mistake in judgment, or inattention. You may be guilty of acting in criminal negligence under California law if you act in a reckless manner that creates a high risk of great bodily injury or death. It must be evident that under similar circumstances, a reasonable person would have known that acting in such a manner would pose such a risk. 

You will only face involuntary manslaughter charges if another person dies due to your lawful or unlawful act. If you act in criminal negligence, but another person does not die, you may not face charges for involuntary manslaughter.  The law considers your act to have caused another person's death if the death of the person was the direct or natural and probable consequences of your actions. You are guilty of causing another person's death if the person would not have died, were it not for your actions.  It must be apparent that a reasonable person would have realized that his/her actions would lead to the death of the victim. 

Involuntary Manslaughter Resulting from Failure to Perform a Legal Duty

Involuntary manslaughter may occur due to failure to perform a legal duty.  The California Penal Code 192b outlines the crime of involuntary manslaughter for failure to perform a legal duty.  This crime has a legal definition than the crime of involuntary manslaughter. To prove that you are guilty of involuntary manslaughter for failing to perform a legal duty, the prosecutor must prove that you owed the victim a legal duty. The prosecutor must further prove that you did not perform the legal duty. It must be evident that your failure to perform the legal duty was criminally negligent. It must also be evident that your failure to perform the legal duty led to the death of the victim.  A judge and not a jury is responsible for deciding whether a person has a legal duty to another person in cases of involuntary manslaughter. 

According to California law, some of the relationships where one party owes the other party a legal duty include a parent-child relationship.  There is also a legal duty between a caretaker and the person the caretaker is offering care to. A legal duty exists in a relationship between two people where one person has assumed responsibility for the other person. 

Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter

The penalty for involuntary manslaughter in California can be harsh. It is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible if you are facing an involuntary manslaughter charge. Your attorney will come up with mechanisms to help defend you against the serious and overwhelming consequences of criminal charges. Under California law, the crime of involuntary manslaughter is a felony offense. The potential penalties for the offense include felony or formal probation. You may also serve jail time of two, three, or four years. The court may require you to pay a penalty that does not exceed $10,000.

You may serve your sentence for involuntary manslaughter in jail instead of state prison. This arrangement is outlined under California's alignment legislation. The realignment legislation in California rook effect in 2011 and has altered the structure for numerous offenses in California. Many offenses that strictly attracted imprisonment in the past can now attract jail time instead. Before the California realignment law, the crime of involuntary manslaughter attracted state imprisonment of two, three, or four years. Even if the crime is a felony, it carries a jail sentence instead of a prison sentence.

The court may allow you to serve part of your sentence in jail and serve the remaining sentence in a probation facility. While on probation, you would be under the mandatory supervision by the rightful county probation officer. The California realignment legislation greatly altered the California criminal justice system. 

You may face civil charges for committing the crime of involuntary manslaughter. The relatives of the victim may file a wrongful death claim against you to seek justice for their loved ones.  If the court finds you guilty of causing wrongful death, you may have to pay large sums of money. You may face penalties for wrongful death in addition to the criminal punishments and fines for involuntary manslaughter. 

The crime of involuntary manslaughter may attract additional penalties under California law. For instance, you may lose some of your privileges, including the privilege to own a weapon. After the conviction of involuntary manslaughter, if you own, purchase, or possess a firearm, you may face additional felony charges under the California Penal Code 12021. 

A conviction of involuntary manslaughter in California may also lead to the loss of state licenses you may currently hold.  The state licensing agencies in California have the mandate to take away your licensing privileges after a conviction of a crime.

If you accidentally kill another person using a firearm or another dangerous and deadly weapon and the court finds you guilty of involuntary manslaughter, you may earn a strike on your record. The crime of involuntary manslaughter will be a strike on your record according to the California Three Strikes Law. 

Federal Level and State Level Penalties and Sentencing

The crime of causing another person's death due to reckless behavior or through the commission of another crime without intent to kill attracts lesser penalties than other forms of homicide. The same case applies in the sentencing for voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter has harsher penalties than involuntary manslaughter under California law.  The crime of involuntary manslaughter is a felony at both the federal and the state level.  The penalties for the felony offense may include imprisonment, fines, and probation. 

At the federal level, the sentence for involuntary manslaughter is a prison sentence. The period of imprisonment will vary depending on whether you committed the crime through an act of reckless conduct. If you commit involuntary manslaughter using a vehicle, the crime changes to vehicular manslaughter. Judges tend to use a certain level of discretion in cases involving involuntary manslaughter using an automobile. 

The sentencing for involuntary manslaughter at the state level varies greatly from the sentencing at the federal level. This is even though states often get cues from federal courts when coming up with sentencing guidelines.  Typically, the state gives a range of possible sentencing for a crime. The judges are then at liberty to use discretion in determining the suitable sentence for a particular crime. 

When making a judgment for an involuntary manslaughter case, judges consider many factors, including aggravating and mitigating factors. These factors help judges to decide how harsh a sentence should be.  The presence of aggravating factors will increase the severity of the crime. Some aggravating factors in an involuntary manslaughter case may include bad credit history and reckless behavior. On the other hand, mitigating factors help to reduce the severity of the crime. Mitigating factors in involuntary manslaughter charges may include accepting responsibility for the crime. A lack of criminal history may also serve as a mitigating factor in an involuntary manslaughter case. 

Common Legal Defenses for Involuntary Manslaughter

If you are facing charges for involuntary manslaughter in California, you do not have to agree with everything the prosecutor states.  Several legal defenses to the crime of involuntary manslaughter in California exist. An experienced attorney can present the defense strategies on your behalf.  Some of the common defenses include:

Self Defense or Defense of Others

You may fight involuntary manslaughter charges by asserting that you were acting in self-defense or defense of another person. However, to use this mechanism, you have to prove in court that you believed that you or another person was in imminent danger of great bodily injury, or other dangers like murder, rape, and robbery. You must also prove that you believed that your immediate use of deadly force was necessary to prevent the inherent danger from occurring. It must be apparent that you did not use more force than was necessary under the circumstances to prevent the inherent danger from occurring. If you can prove all the elements of acting in self-defense or defense of another person, you can fight involuntary manslaughter charges. 

Insufficient Evidence

You may fight involuntary manslaughter charges if the arresting officer does not have enough evidence against you.  It is common for the police to make snap decisions regarding the deaths of victims. When the police present their case to the prosecutors, prosecutors often buy into the police's story. An experienced attorney can challenge the evidence the arresting officer and the prosecutor has against you.  Your attorney can conduct his/her investigations. For instance, the attorney may invest time and effort in interviewing witnesses. The attorney will also re-examine the evidence against you and identify any lapses. In some instances, attorneys consult with experienced independent forensic scientists to unveil what happened. 

You Killed the Victim through an Accident

In some sense, all cases of involuntary manslaughter are accidents. The defendant often lacks the intention to kill the victim.  If the defendant did not engage in any form of wrongdoing and did not act in criminal negligence, he/she may state that the victim died due to an accident.

To use the accident defense, you must be able to prove that you did not have a criminal intent to cause them harm. It must also be apparent that at the time of the crime, you did not act in criminal justice. You may also use this defense strategy if you were actively involved in lawful activity at the time of the accident. 

False Accusation

It is common for people to accuse each other falsely. Therefore, another person may falsely accuse you of committing involuntary manslaughter while you are innocent. A person intending to take revenge against you may accuse you of involuntary manslaughter. At times, family members or friends of the victim may have taken part in the death of the victim. To minimize their role in the victim's death, the family or friends of the deceased may accuse you falsely.  Your lawyer has experience in handing manslaughter charges. An attorney understands the importance of technical details. These details come in handy in fighting involuntary manslaughter charges. 

Related Offenses

Under California law, several offenses are related to the offense of involuntary manslaughter. The judge may charge you with the related offenses alongside the involuntary manslaughter offense. The judge may also charge you with the related offenses instead of involuntary manslaughter. Some of the related offenses include:

Voluntary Manslaughter

If you kill another person during a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion, you may face charges for voluntary manslaughter.  The California law PC 192a outlines the crime of voluntary manslaughter.  Just like the name of the crime, voluntary manslaughter refers to intentional killing. You may face charges for this crime of you intentionally, or voluntary kill another person.  However, this crime is often because of the strong emotions of the defendant. Therefore, the penalties are less severe than the penalties for murder.

However, the penalties for voluntary manslaughter are more severe than the penalties for involuntary manslaughter.  The penalties include imprisonment in California state prison. The imprisonment period may range from three years, six years, or eleven years. You will also earn a penalty of getting a strike on your criminal record as outlined by the California three strikes law. 


There is one major distinction between murder and manslaughter, the presence of malice aforethought. For a crime to qualify as murder, it must be evident that the defendant had the intent to kill. The California law PC 187 outlines the crime of murder.  Under the felony-murder rule, if you accidentally kill a person while committing a dangerous felony, you will face murder charges instead of manslaughter, even if you had no intent to kill.  The potential sentence for a murder conviction under California law is 15 years to life imprisonment.  You may face the California death penalty if you commit special circumstances murder.  A special circumstance murder may include killing a police officer, a witness, or killing a person for financial gain.

Vehicular Manslaughter

The crime of vehicular manslaughter is almost identical to the crime of voluntary manslaughter, but there is one main difference.  A crime of vehicular manslaughter occurs when the defendant is operating a motor vehicle.  If you commit vehicular manslaughter in gross negligence, you will face enhanced charges for gross vehicular manslaughter.  Depending on the prosecutor's discretion, a crime of vehicular manslaughter may attract misdemeanor or felony charges.  The California law PC 192c outlines the crime of vehicular manslaughter. 

Contact an Los Angeles Criminal Attorney near Me

The charges for involuntary manslaughter can be devastating.  Without proper legal representation, you may face negative consequences.  Leah Legal has many years of experience in assisting clients charged with involuntary manslaughter. Contact us at 818-484-1100 and speak to one of our attorneys today.