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How is manslaughter defined in California?

Jul 15, 2023 | Violent Crimes

While most people understand the definition of murder, the legal concept of manslaughter is a bit murkier. In California, manslaughter entails unlawfully yet not maliciously ending another person’s life.

There are actually three different types of manslaughter, each of which has different standards and criteria. Understanding these standards is key to navigating legal issues if you or a loved one faces a serious criminal accusation.

Difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter

It is important to remember that manslaughter is never an intentional act. Involuntary manslaughter involves ending another person’s life while in the process of committing a crime, provided that the crime is not a felony. It can also result from a lawful activity performed without the care and consideration of others.

Conversely, with voluntary manslaughter, a person ends the life of another as the result of a sudden conflict or within the “heat of passion.” There is an exception that states a person cannot use the defense that the provocation of violence resulted from the victim’s disclosure of gender or gender identity.

Understanding vehicular manslaughter

The third category is vehicular manslaughter, which is in a separate classification from voluntary and involuntary cases. Vehicular manslaughter can entail gross negligence. For example, causing a deadly car crash by driving over 100 miles per hour can lead to a charge of gross negligence. Gross negligence can also accompany lawful and unlawful activities.

It is possible for vehicular manslaughter to elevate to a murder charge based on the specifics. For instance, a driver may face a murder charge if the crash resulted from their malicious actions or activities.