Posted on September 16, 2015

Los Angeles Involuntary Manslaughter Attorney – California Penal Code § 192(b)

In California, involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing of another resulting from your criminal negligence. What sets involuntary manslaughter apart from voluntary manslaughter is that voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing whereas involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing. Involuntary manslaughter is not applicable to homicides occurring as a result of your driving. Involuntary manslaughter is formally defined under California Penal Code § 192(b) which states, “Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice…Involuntary – in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection.” When determining whether to formally charge you, the prosecutor will examine your conduct to determine whether you acted with criminal negligence or were in violation of a misdemeanor of infraction offense. This can be proven by your own statements to police officers or within a crime scene investigation. Another factor the prosecutor will consider are the decedent’s family member’s desire for prosecution. This charge does not require any planning or calculation or intent, rather it’s merely an accidental homicide resulting from criminal negligence or breaking a misdemeanor or infraction offense.

Involuntary manslaughter is also a lesser charged crime from murder. Normally when someone acts with a conscious indifference to human life, they are charged with murder (murder in the second degree). However, a problem usually arises when someone acted with extremely recklessness to justify the charge or murder or with gross criminal negligence which is required for involuntary manslaughter. Often times, defense lawyers argue for the lesser crime which carries substantially less prison time than murder.

Usually a detective or a police officer will contact you requesting to speak with you regarding the incident. It is in your best interest not to make any statement and contact Los Angeles Manslaughter Defense Lawyer John Rogers immediately. The more you talk to law enforcement, the more you limit your options for creating doubt in the prosecutor’s case as well as limit your potential defenses at trial. The best approach is to retain a defense attorney at the earliest possible juncture of the case. Hiring counsel early can mean the difference of spending time in California state prison or significantly reducing the charges or obtaining a dismissal.

Elements of the Crime

According to CALCRIM 571, in order for someone to be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter under P.C. § 192(b), the prosecutor must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Defendant committed a crime that posed a high risk of death or great bodily injury in the manner in which it was committed, or committed a lawful act, but acted with criminal negligence;

2. Defendant’s act caused the death of another person

Legal Defenses to Involuntary Manslaughter

• You were not the cause of death. Perhaps there are additional factors that may have contributed to the decedent’s death that were beyond your control. For instance, the decedent was suffered a heart attack not as a result of your conduct and/or there was misconduct within the hospital the decedent attended.

• The police officers obtained your incriminating statements in violation of your Miranda rights under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

• The physical evidence against you, or your subsequent incriminating statements resulted from a violation of your search and seizure rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

• You’re not the individual who committed the homicide offense. Unfortunately, mistaken identification (uncorroborated) is common problem within the criminal court system or perhaps someone else is pointing the finger at you.

• You used reasonable force to defend yourself or defend someone else from death or great bodily harm.

• Your conduct did not rise to the level of criminal negligence. Perhaps your conduct is consistent with ordinary negligence or you were not negligent at all.

• You were not in violation of a misdemeanor or infraction offense.

What is Criminal Negligence?

CALCRIM 581 additionally defines criminal negligence as involving, “…more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. A person acts with criminal negligence when:

1. He or she acts in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury; and

2. A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk.

In other words, a person acts with criminal negligence when the way he or she acts is so different from the way an ordinary careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of that act.”

Penalties

Involuntary manslaughter is a wobbler offense which means the prosecutor holds discretion to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor. Factors the prosecutor will consider are your prior criminal record, how criminal your conduct was, whether you were in the commission of an illegal act, and the desires of the decedent’s family. If you are convicted of involuntary manslaughter as a felony, you face 2, 3, or 4 years in the county jail. However, if you are convicted of involuntary manslaughter as a misdemeanor you face up to 1 year in the county jail. In addition to county jail, the court will usually impose probation, fines and fees, counseling, and offender classes.

Defense Investigation

investigationWhen accused of any homicide offense, nothing less than a thorough investigation must be conducted on your behalf to determine and weigh the validity of the prosecutors claims. This shall include, speaking with all witnesses the prosecutor intends to call as well as searching for additional witnesses; examining the decedent’s medical records and autopsy report(s) to determine whether the decedent died under proper medical care in the hospital; obtain any video footage from local businesses or residences in the surrounding area; and/or retain a defense reconstruction expert to conduct a formal examination of the circumstances to determine whether you were acting with criminal negligence. Police officers do not often gather all the evidence in the case or perhaps omit collecting pertinent evidence demonstrating your innocence. Homicide cases are extremely fact specific, thus when accused, a careful examination of the circumstances and evidence is necessary.

Reduction to a Misdemeanor

As written above, involuntary manslaughter is a wobbler offense and capable of being reduced to a misdemeanor pursuant to Penal Code § 17(b), so long as certain conditions are met and you fulfill the eligibility requirements. For instance, you must not have been sentenced to state prison for this offense or you’re ineligible to receive this remedy. Furthermore, you must have completed your probation period, obeyed all laws and orders from the court, and paid off all existing fines and fees. If you suffered a probation violation during your supervision period then the chances of obtaining a reduction reduces substantially. When filing a petition, the court will usually requires you to state a reason for reducing your felony – i.e., military, child custody, immigration, and employment are the most common examples and reasons for reduction that the court deems legitimate. If you are seeking to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor, then contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free consultation.

Expungement

criminal-backgroundIf you’ve been convicted of involuntary manslaughter then you may be eligible to expunge your conviction under Penal Code § 1203.4. In order to obtain this relief you must have completed all your probation time, paid all outstanding fines and fees, and obeyed all orders from the court. If you fall under that criteria then you may petition the court to withdraw its finding of guilt, a not guilty will then be entered, and the judge will dismiss the case pursuant to the P.C. § 1203.4 statute. From that point forward, you will be released from all “penalties and disabilities” as a result of the conviction. However, if you suffer from a probation violation then the chances of obtaining an expungment reduce significantly. If you are seeking to expunge your conviction for involuntary manslaughter then contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a consultation to discuss your eligibility.

Example

Dan was working for a building demolition company. His company was hired to teardown a 5-story office building in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. Dan was assigned to the 5th story and his job was to break apart pieces of the building on the 5th floor and toss them down into a designated rock pile on the ground. Because Dan had to walk 30 feet with heavy pieces of rock to throw off the 5th story into the rock pile, he decided to throw the rocks off the building right next to him at a closer distance. Knowing that there would be other employees working at the bottom, but reasonably believed he would not hit them, Dan tossed a cinderblock off the top story (not in the designated area). The cinderblock struck another employee, Paul, and killed him instantly. The police arrive and conduct their investigation. They concluded Dan acted with criminal negligence killing Paul by not tossing the cinderblock in the designated area directed by his supervisor. Dan was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter. In this case, Dan would arguably be guilty of involuntary manslaughter if the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that tossing the cinderblock off the top story not in the designated area is criminal negligence. Dan’s defense attorney will argue that Dan’s conduct only amounts to ordinary negligence and not the high standard of criminal negligence.

Related Offenses

Penal Code § 192(a): Voluntary Manslaughter
Penal Code § 192(c): Vehicular Manslaughter
Penal Code § 187: Murder

Contact Us for Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has been arrested, charged, or is under investigation for involuntary manslaughter, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers. Call 877-888-9820 for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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