homicide voluntary manslaughter in California

Under California law, homicide is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being which may result in a criminal charge of murder or manslaughter. In order to convict a person of having committed a murder, it has to be proven “malice aforethought,” that is to say the defendant’s intentions, aims and plans referring the homicide. If there is no malice, it means that the offender can be charged with manslaughter. Thus, difference between murder and manslaughter is in the state of the mind of the offender. Manslaughter does not apply to the death of a fetus.

1. California Manslaughter Laws
2. Voluntary Manslaughter in California
3. Defenses
4. Punishment for California Manslaughter
5. Related Offences

Below, we will explain the main elements of the California Voluntary Manslaughter definition as well as we are ready to provide answers to your initial questions concerning voluntary manslaughter charges in California for free.

1. California Manslaughter Laws
In California, it is defined three types of manslaughter: voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular.

2. Voluntary Manslaughter in California
In order to prove that the defendant is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, the prosecution must prove that:
1. The defendant committed an act that caused the death of another person;
2. When the defendant acted, he or she unlawfully intended to kill someone;
3. The killing cannot be considered as excusable or justifiable.

In order to understand better the terms of this requirements, we need to clarify them.
The death must be the direct, substantial, natural, and probable consequence of the act and it would not have happened without that. If a reasonable person knows that it is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes, that is a natural and probable consequence. It can be more than one cause of the death; however, an act can cause death if it is essential factor and not just trivial or remote factor.
Example: The doctor diagnosed that John needs heart transplantation; otherwise, he will die in 6 months. During the party, in heat of passion John quarreled with Sam. Sam punched him and John get down on the knife. Sam will be convicted of voluntary manslaughter because the fact that he punched John was substantial cause of his death. We do not take into consideration that John would die in several months because he was ill.
It has to be shown that the defendant committed voluntary manslaughter during a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. For a voluntary manslaughter charge, the prosecutor must show that the defendant committed homicide during a sudden quarrel or while in the heat of passion. It is also important to take into consideration the period passed between the provocation and the act of homicide. It can happen that the victim does something offensive for the defendant, but only after having planned the homicide the defendant decides to kill the victim. In this case, the defendant will be charged with murder. Thus, it is essential to establish the lack of malice. Nonetheless, even in this case, the prosecutor still must prove that the offender had the intent to cause severe bodily injury or death of the victim in order to find guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
Example: Janette finds her husband with Jessica. She does not say anything and just goes away. In two days, she kills Jessica. In this case, she will be charged with murder because the act did not be committed in the heat of passion, even if it was provoked by it in the past. Janette had enough time to plan the murder and the malice aforethought can be easily proved.

A person, who acts in imperfect self-defense or imperfect defense of another, can be as well convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Such kind of killing should be reduced to voluntary manslaughter if it corresponds to the requirements of imperfect self-defense or imperfect defense of another stated by law as well as if it is excusable or justifiable homicide. The main difference between complete and imperfect self-defense or defense of another consists of whether belief in the need to use deadly force was reasonable
The defendant acts in imperfect self-defense or imperfect defense of another if:
1. The defendant actually believed that he/she or someone else was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury from the killed;
2. The defendant actually believed that the immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against the danger;
3. At least one of those beliefs was unreasonable.

It should be noted that belief danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury in the future is not sufficient, notwithstanding how possible it believed to be.
It is evaluated as defendant’s belief the following facts:
– all the circumstances as they were known and appeared to the defendant
– all the circumstances when the decedent threatened or harmed the defendant or others in the past
– if the court finds that the defendant received a threat from someone else that he or she reasonably associated with the decedent.

Note: Only significant or substantial physical injury can be considered to be great bodily injury.

3. Defenses to California Voluntary Manslaughter
An experienced and professional California defense attorney can use various legal defenses in order to reduce the voluntary manslaughter charge to involuntary manslaughter or dismiss the charge. Below, we represent some of them.
The state of insanity
False confessions
Illegal search or seizure
– Etc.

4. Punishment for California Voluntary Manslaughter
California voluntary manslaughter is a felony. The convicted faces sentencing of three (3), six (6) or eleven (11) years in California state prison.
Moreover, one of penalties for voluntary manslaughter consists of a “strike” on the criminal record[1].
In addition, the court may impose additional penalties in the following cases:
– the loss of the right to own or possess a firearm
– a fine up to $10000
– etc.

5. Related Offences
Attempted Murder
Involuntary Manslaughter
Vehicular Manslaughter


The Margarian Law Firm aggressively protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. There are always defenses that can help you avoid penalties. That is the prosecutor who has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was acting in a wrong way. We can make him not meet this requirement, you will find not guilty of murder or even your charge will be dismissed. Moreover, sometimes a person can be innocent and, notwithstanding all circumstances, be accused of committing a crime by mistake. We will evaluate your case and engage as fast as possible in your defense for trial. Do not hesitate to contact us. We will do our best to get the best possible outcome for You!

You may file your request online, by telephone or by mail. 818-553-1000

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