The term manslaughter might sound like the worst form of murder, but in reality, manslaughter is a lesser offense than murder. Still, manslaughter can put a person in prison for multiple years, so this is not a charge to take lightly. The intention behind an act of manslaughter can make a difference in how long someone serves in prison.
The state of California breaks manslaughter down into different categories. Assuming a person does not commit manslaughter with a vehicle, which would necessitate a charge of vehicular manslaughter, someone may face a charge of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
Defining voluntary manslaughter
FindLaw explains that voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person gets into a sudden fight with another person or inflicts violence in the heat of passion. The result is that the belligerent person kills the other individual. The circumstances of the incident must establish that the person involved did not plan in advance to kill but did have an intention to harm or possibly inflict death on someone during the incident.
Defining involuntary manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter does not mean a person planned to harm or kill someone. It does not even require an intention to inflict violence. Instead, involuntary manslaughter involves a person behaving carelessly or recklessly during a lawful activity. The reckless action results in a person’s death.
A person may be guilty of involuntary manslaughter if the state proves the person knew he or she was behaving recklessly, or should have reasonably known his or her actions were reckless. Involuntary manslaughter may also apply to someone who commits a non-felony crime and behaves recklessly in a manner that causes someone to die.
Sentences for manslaughter will vary
A person convicted of voluntary manslaughter in California could serve as little as three years in prison or up to 11 years. By contrast, involuntary manslaughter may land someone behind bars for two, three or four years. Circumstances of a manslaughter incident will matter a lot in terms of how much freedom a person could lose.