California “Involuntary Manslaughter” Laws | Penal Code 192(b) PC

June 16, 2018

In California, involuntary manslaughter is codified under penal code 192(b) pc when a person unintentionally kills another resulting from criminal negligence.[1] In other words, involuntary manslaughter requires no intent to kill or harm another but still makes it a crime when the killing was an accident. To prove someone is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor is required to prove each of the following elements:

  1. You committed a crime that posed a high risk of death or great bodily injury in the manner in which it was committed[2], OR committed a lawful act, but acted with criminal negligence;
  2. You caused the death of another person.[3]

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Defenses to Involuntary Manslaughter – PC 192(b)

  • Causation: The prosecutor bears the burden that your act or omission caused the death of the decedent. However, several scenarios may be present that could cut off your liability – i.e., an unforeseeable intervening act. For instance, the medical staff could have been grossly negligence in their care of the patient, and their medical care could be a factor that brought the death of the decedent.
  • Self-Defense: You apply reasonable force under the circumstances to prevent unlawful injury to yourself or another. Self-defense is measured under the circumstances, taking into account any weapons used, whether the decedent was the initial aggressor, and the amount of force you used to defense yourself of another.
  • Ordinary Negligence: Notably, part of an element for this offense requires criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is more than ordinarily negligence – criminal negligence is otherwise known as gross Therefore, if your conduct amounted only to falling below the reasonable standard of care, then the prosecution’s case will be insufficient to convict you.

Punishment & Sentencing

Penal code 192(b) is a wobbler, allowing the prosecutor to charge you with either a misdemeanor or felony. A felony conviction for involuntary manslaughter carries 2, 3, or 4 years in the county jail. A misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in the county jail. Certain aggravating factors, combined with your prior criminal history, ordinarily determine the charge level. Regardless however, the prosecution will seek payment of restitution to the decedent’s family for any economic loss such as funeral costs.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you’ve been arrested, charged, or are under investigation for involuntary manslaughter under PC 192(b), then contact an experienced Newport Beach criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to schedule a free confidential case evaluation.

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Legal References:

[1] (b) 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. This subdivision shall not apply to acts committed in the driving of a vehicle.

[2] See People v. Cox (2000) 23 Cal.4th 665 (The predicate offense underlying charge or involuntary manslaughter by an involuntary act not amounting to felony must be dangerous under the circumstances of its commission; the inherent or abstract nature of a misdemeanor underlies an involuntary manslaughter charge is not dispositive.)

[3] See CALCRIM No. 581.

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