Posted on September 14, 2015

Los Angeles Voluntary Manslaughter Defense Attorney – California Penal Code § 192(a)

In California, the crime of manslaughter is categorized into three sections under Penal Code § 192: voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter. What sets voluntary manslaughter apart from the other two categories is that voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing of another without malice but done in the sudden heat of passion or quarrel. Voluntary manslaughter is formally defined under California P.C. § 192(a) as “Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” When someone intentionally kills another, they can be charged with either premeditated murder or voluntary manslaughter. Because premeditated murder requires a pre-calculated mindset, the law recognizes a lesser form of homicide of voluntary manslaughter where the suspect acts under a sudden quarrel without any sufficient time to reflect on their actions. Normally, the legal issue presented in an intentional homicide trial is the prosecutor arguing for premeditated and deliberate (first degree) murder whereas the defense attorney argues for a lesser degree of homicide of voluntary manslaughter which carries substantially less prison time.

If you’re under investigation for voluntary manslaughter, do not make any statement to police officers or a detective. The more you speak to police, the more you limit your options for creating doubt and defenses later on in the case. Unequivocally ask for a lawyer, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact Los Angeles Manslaughter Defense Lawyer John Rogers. Early intervention by a defense attorney could mean the difference of spending 11 years or more in state prison or reducing the charges, or dismissing them completely. And because evidence is liable to be deleted or lost and/or pertinent witnesses memories may fade, retaining a lawyer at the earliest juncture of the case is necessary.

Elements of Voluntary Manslaughter as a Lesser Offense to Murder

According to CALCRIM 570, in order for someone to be found guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter pursuant to P.C. § 192(a), the prosecutor must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, or your defense attorney can argue as a lesser offense to first degree murder:

1. Defendant intentionally killed another person

2. Defendant was provoked

3. Defendant acted rashly under the influence of intense emotion that obscured his or her reasoning as a result of the provocation

4. The provocation would have caused a person of average disposition to act rashly and without due deliberation, that is, from passion rather than judgment

It should be noted that the prosecutor must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you unlawfully killed another human being in addition to the above elements. CALCRIM 570 further defines voluntary manslaughter as the lesser offense to murder as “A killing that would otherwise be murder is reduced to voluntary manslaughter if the defendant killed someone because of a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.” The state of mind required to show heat of passion is measured objectively. It however, does not require rage, anger, or any specific type of emotion. Furthermore, what stands apart voluntary manslaughter from first degree murder is the defendant’s state of mind. If the defendant acted immediately, the offense is likely to be manslaughter whereas if the defendant acted with a sufficient time span to think about their actions, then the prosecutor will argue for murder.

Legal Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter

• The evidence obtained against you resulted in a violation of your search and seizure rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Violations may include coercion, lack of consent, invalid search warrants, unreasonable detentions, and lack of exigent circumstances.

• Your statements to police officers were obtained in violation of your Fifth Amendment right of the U.S. Constitution (Miranda warning admonishment).

• You were not the cause of death of the decent. Perhaps there were additional circumstances calling into question the medical procedures conducted by the physician on the decedent which, but for the medical malpractice, may have resulted in them still being alive.

• You were acting in self-defense or the defense of another to prevent bodily injury or death.

• You were not the person who committed the offense and you’re wrongly accused of this crime by mistaken eyewitness identification.

• The death of the other person resulted in your negligence / gross negligence or it was done on accident and not based on the intentional act of killing.

• The death occurred to a fetus and not a living person. California law recognizes death only applicable to individuals born and not the unborn.

• The police officers / Detective fabricated portions of the evidence against you or are exaggerating the circumstances.

Punishment for Voluntary Manslaughter

Pursuant to Penal Code § 193(a), the punishment for Voluntary Manslaughter is by imprisonment in California state prison for 3, 6, or 11 years. Furthermore, the prosecutor may allege enhancements with greater prison exposure if proved. For instance, you may face additional time if you used a firearm to carry out the killing.

Defense: Imperfect Self-Defense

If you’re accused of committing premeditated and deliberate murder, as indicated above, your defense attorney may argue the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter claiming you acted under the sudden heat of passion. However, there is another method of arguing for voluntary manslaughter if your defense team can show that you acted with imperfect self-defense or imperfect defense of another. According to CALCRIM 571, imperfect self-defense is:

1. Defendant actually believed that they or someone else was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury;

2. Defendant actually believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger;

3. But at least one of those beliefs was unreasonable.

Defense Investigation

investigation

If you have been charged with committing voluntary manslaughter then nothing short of a full investigation must be conducted on your behalf. Serious homicide accusations require an intricate review of the evidence against you as well as further investigation. Police officers do not always collect all the evidence in a case and at times, intentionally or grossly omit collecting evidence that has a tendency in favoring your innocence. The Law Offices of John D. Rogers has access to a number of defense experts to conduct analysis, accident reconstruction, psychologists, and investigators to questions witnesses and search for additional evidence in preparation for your defense. The prosecutor will have a detective and a number of officers working to ensure you’re convicted of a crime. There is no reason why you cannot have the same in a defense team. Furthermore, the Law Offices of John D. Rogers will conduct a thorough investigation to obtain the following pertinent information:

• Decedent’s medical records
• County Autopsy Report
• All cellular phone data
• Obtain all video surveillance footage from local businesses and/or residences
• Search for additional witnesses
• Photograph the scene and surrounding area
• Criminal records of the witnesses the prosecutor intends to call at trial
• Speak with character witnesses to show that you are not the type of person to commit an intentional killing
• DNA / Finger print / Physical evidence analysis

Examples

Dan came to his Los Angeles home from work one evening. As he entered his home, he noticed clothing on the couch. Dan also heard noises from his bedroom. Dan walked into his bedroom and found his wife in bed with another man. Dan became so upset he quickly grabbed the lap, ran over to his wife’s lover, and struck him in the head. His wife’s lover immediately died. Dan was subsequently arrested and charged with murder. In this case, Dan’s criminal defense attorney would argue that Dan is not guilty of murder but instead guilty of a lesser homicide offense, voluntary manslaughter. Since his actions of striking his wife’s lover resulted in him becoming angered at the sight of his wife having an affair evidences reasonable provocation and heat of passion. Furthermore, Dan’s defense lawyer could argue that Dan never intended to kill his wife’s lover but instead only wanted to commit great bodily injury thereby negating the requirement for specifically intending to kill his wife’s lover.

Dan had just finished his night class at a local Los Angeles college and he was walking to his car in the parking lot. As he was walking he noticed a shadow following him. Dan began to run and noticed the shadow running behind him as well. When Dan got to his car he immediately grabbed his gun and fired at the person behind him. He ended up killing a fellow classmate who was returning a book that Dan left in class. The police subsequently arrest Dan for murder. In this case, Dan’s defense lawyer will argue that Dan is not guilty of murder based on the doctrine of imperfect self-defense. Instead, Dan’s attorney will argue that Dan’s actions do not rise to the level of premeditation since the homicide occurred as a reaction where Dan felt he was protecting himself. Since Dan arguably should have turned and looked who was behind him, the court may see that Dan’s actions of firing his gun thinking he was defending himself as unreasonable. Accordingly, Dan would be guilty of the lesser homicide of voluntary manslaughter.

Related Offenses

Penal Code § 192: Vehicular Manslaughter
Penal Code § 187: Murder
Penal Code § 187/664: Attempted Murder

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has been arrested, charged, or is under investigation for voluntary manslaughter under P.C. § 192(a), 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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