People don't realize that there are different classifications of manslaughter when it comes to criminal cases in Los Angeles. There's a situation where somebody becomes angry – angry to the point where they are provoked and they're in the heat of passion and they end of killing somebody.
That can be charged with voluntary manslaughter. Also, there's a situation where somebody is driving in a negligent manner and based on that negligence, they end up causing a death. That can be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
And then finally, there's a situation where somebody's driving recklessly on the road and they end up, because of their reckless conduct, killing another motorist. That could be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
Different Types of Manslaughter Charges in California
When you talk about the distinction between these different cases when it comes to manslaughter under California Penal Code Section 192, there really is a fine line and a lot of times, it's just the prosecutor making a subjective judgment call as to which form of manslaughter to charge.
I get these cases, I look at them and I think to myself, geez, this case is just improperly charged, it's charged too high and a lot of time they shouldn't even charge certain cases.
I recently had a case where my client was negotiating a left-hand turn in the wee hours of the morning, it was dark, and he couldn't see because someone had illegally parked their car and he was trying to peek around the car and someone's coming flying down the road on a motorcycle and the motorcycle ends up hitting his car, and unfortunately, the person passed away.
These guys investigated the case for like a year and then right at the last minute filed it against my client and charged him with involuntary manslaughter. In my opinion, this is the type of case that was simply improperly filed and should never have been filed in the first place.
So, when you talk about an involuntary manslaughter case and the example that I just gave above, this is a situation where it's debatable whether the defendant actually did anything illegal. And we ended up getting an accident reconstruction expert to take the crime apart, check the speeds, and check the surrounding areas where this accident occurred.
Once we got the accident reconstruction report back, it was determined that the client didn't do anything wrong and it was a combination of the motorcycle going too fast and the road where that area was, being defective for that left-hand turn, and then of course, finally the person illegally parking their car there contributed to this death.
So, once the prosecutor saw the accident reconstruction report they ended up dismissing the case and when it comes to involuntary manslaughter they really have to be able to show two things.
One, that the person did something illegal, and two, whatever they did ended up causing the death of another person. Sometimes somebody does something illegal and it has nothing to do with the death. The other person was doing something illegal, or the other person caused their own death.
This is where you've got to get a criminal defense attorney like me who's been doing this 25 years on the case so that they can look at everything and really make a judgment call on whether or not this case should have been filed in the first place.
If it's a good case, if it should have been filed, then we set about getting together a mitigation package for the client, we get character letters and we really show the other side of the client – their friends, their family, their job, and all the good things about them, in order to convince the prosecutors to give them the best possible resolution.
This is a situation where someone does something more than just your normal traffic infraction, you know, like making an illegal left-hand turn, running a stop sign, I'm going a little bit too fast.
To get a vehicular manslaughter case, the prosecutors are going to have to show gross negligence on the part of the defendant, and once again that gross negligence ended up causing the death of another.
In this circumstance, someone's really going to have to be driving recklessly, speeding way to fast for conditions, and basically just be out of control, and then because of that out of control, dangerous behavior on the road, they end up causing the death of another.
And then the prosecutors can file a vehicular manslaughter case against them in Los Angeles, and of course, that's much more serious penalties than an involuntary manslaughter case because there's a higher degree of dangerous behavior, and that will cause, of course, a higher punishment for the defendant.
Voluntary manslaughter has to do with somebody becoming so enraged by the behavior of another person that it drives them, in their heat of passion, to end up killing the other person.
The classic example of this is where the husband comes home, finds the wife cheating on another man, goes crazy and ends up killing either the other man, the wife or both of them.
In this scenario, the husband could have the argument that he was in the heat of the passion and that the other parties provoked him to do this because they were having sex in his own bedroom and that infidelity could drive the average human being into such a rage that they might kill somebody.
Now, of course, if you get a voluntary manslaughter like this, it doesn't get you out of the crime, it just lessens the potential ramifications that you can face. And it takes it out of the murder category, which the prosecutors would typically file, where you're looking at 15 years to life or 25 years to life, depending on the circumstances.
So we use a voluntary manslaughter defense in a scenario where somebody again is operating under such a passionate state that they go crazy and end up killing somebody.
And of course, you can't have a situation where the passion is worn off and they're no longer under that passion, now they plan on killing that person and go and execute that plan. That would be a murder case.
Murder Based On Vehicular Dangerous Behavior In Los Angeles
Under this category, somebody on the road has gone far beyond normal negligence, has gone far beyond reckless driving and has now risen to the level of wanton dangerous behavior.
And in that case, the prosecutors can and will charge a murder case against them. The classic example of this is the Watson Murder where somebody drinks and drives and ends up doing something horribly dangerous and killing somebody.
The drinking and driving is such wanton behavior, especially in today's society where people should know that if you drink and drive you could end up killing somebody or yourself.
Another classic example is if somebody is just doing things that are so wanton, so reckless and have such a disregard for human life, that they should know that there's a good chance whatever they're doing is probably going to kill somebody else.
If the prosecutors can prove this high degree of dangerous behavior, then they're going to be able to charge a murder case and the person will be looking at 15 years to life in prison.
So, all these different distinctions when it comes to manslaughter and murder, vehicular manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter, all come into play every day in Los Angeles County and it's up the best attorney, somebody like me who's been doing this for 25 years, to defend people when the prosecutors bring out the fangs and charge such serious crimes against them.
Punishments For Manslaughter
The punishments can vary for manslaughter in Los Angeles County. They can range from – somebody could get probation and no jail time and some community service if it's an involuntary manslaughter situation, to a situation where somebody could be looking at county jail time.
If maybe it's just a simple vehicular manslaughter and the person obviously didn't do it on purpose, but was driving in a grossly negligent manner and has no prior criminal record.
That could be a situation where they could end up getting local county jail time, to finally a situation where somebody is just driving so recklessly that they're either looking at many years in prison, or even being charged with murder in the case where somebody is driving alcohol or going over 100 mph and they end up killing another person.
The best scenario is to hire somebody who's been doing this for a long time, who has experience in these types of cases, and also who has local experience in the courthouse where your case is pending with the judges and prosecutor and having tried jury trials there.
For more information on Manslaughter Charges In LA County, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0979today.