You can face an arrest and charges for involuntary manslaughter when you kill another person due to criminal negligence. Also, causing the death of another person while committing another crime could attract charges under CPC 192(b).
Involuntary manslaughter is a felony offense that attracts severe legal consequences upon conviction. In addition to jail time and fines resulting from a conviction, you may have civil liability to compensate the deceased's family for causing the wrongful death of their loved one.
Due to the serious nature of PC 192(b) charges, it is wise to seek immediate legal guidance when you or your loved one faces an arrest for this crime. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have knowledge of the California Penal Codes. Therefore, we could provide you with a top-notch defense against involuntary manslaughter criminal charges. Additionally, we serve clients requiring legal guidance and representation throughout Riverside, CA.
Overview of Involuntary Manslaughter in California
California PC 192(b) defines involuntary manslaughter as the unintentional killing of someone else resulting from recklessness or criminal negligence. The most critical element of PC 192b is that an intent to commit a crime is unnecessary. Therefore, if you cause another person’s death while driving a vehicle, you will be charged with vehicular manslaughter instead of involuntary manslaughter.
Before you face a conviction for this offense, the prosecutor must establish the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You committed an infraction or a misdemeanor that is not dangerous or a lawful act in an unlawful manner. You commit the crime of involuntary manslaughter when you kill someone while committing a crime that is not serious. The crime could be a misdemeanor, infraction, or a felony that is not dangerous. If you cause someone else's death while committing a serious felony, you could face the more serious murder charge.
- You acted with criminal negligence. Whether you face involuntary manslaughter charges for death resulting from criminal activity or a lawful act, the prosecution must prove that you were criminally negligent. There is more to criminal negligence than inattention or ordinary carelessness. Criminal negligence occurs when your actions put other people at risk of serious harm or death. Also, criminal negligence is acting so that a reasonable individual would know it was risky to human life.
- You caused the death of another person. California Penal Code 192(b) charges will only stick if another individual died due to negligent acts. Your actions are considered to have resulted in the victim's death if their death was a probable, natural, or direct consequence of your conduct. Also, the prosecutor must prove that you knew that your actions could cause death, given the circumstances.
Involuntary Manslaughter Based on a Legal Duty
Death based on failure to exercise your legal duty of care towards another person is considered a violation of PC 192(b). However, it is crucial to understand that even when you do not perform your legal duty towards the alleged victim, your actions must amount to the criminal negligence required for this crime. If the judge determines that you had a duty to someone else, the prosecution must establish the following factors:
- You had a legal duty of care towards the alleged victim. In this case, legal duty means that you have the responsibility to avoid causing harm to that person.
- You failed to perform your legal duty. Acting in a manner that puts another person's life is considered a breach of legal duty.
- Your actions were criminally negligent.
- Your breach of legal duty resulted in the victim's death.
Establishing a legal duty towards another person can be challenging. Therefore, the prosecution uses the nature of your relationship with the alleged victim to establish your guilt.
Penalties That Accompany an Involuntary Manslaughter Conviction
Involuntary manslaughter is always charged as a felony, and the punishment you face after a conviction is harsh. The consequences that accompany a conviction under CPC 192b go beyond jail time. Therefore, it is crucial to fight the charges with a competent criminal lawyer by your side. Penalties for involuntary manslaughter include:
- Incarceration for two to four years. Since involuntary manslaughter is not as serious as murder and voluntary manslaughter, the court could allow you to serve a sentence in county jail instead of State prison.
- A court fine of up to $10,000
- If you violated PC 192(b) while in possession of a deadly weapon, a conviction will be a strike under California Three Strikes Law.
Sometimes, the court allows you to serve a portion of the jail sentence and the rest on supervised probation. Unfortunately, probation is not offered to all individuals who face a conviction for involuntary manslaughter. Therefore, your attorney may need to negotiate with the prosecutor to obtain an alternative sentence for you.
Involuntary manslaughter attracts felony probation which has stricter rules compared to summary probation. Within forty-eight hours of a release on probation, you must register with the Adult Probation Department. Felony probation lasts up to five years, and you have to check in with the probation department regularly throughout the probation period.
If you always check in on time and follow other court-imposed terms, the court may shorten your probation. Shorter probation is useful when you seek relief from the conviction through expungement of your record. However, if you violate probation, you will face a re-arrest, and you could serve your original prison sentence.
In addition to jail time, fines, and probation, a conviction for this crime may cause you to lose your right to purchase or use a firearm.
Civil Consequences for Involuntary Manslaughter
If you are arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter, you will be held liable for the wrongful death. The deceased family could file a civil lawsuit requiring you to compensate them for the losses incurred from the wrongful death. If you are found liable for the wrongful death, the court will require that you pay a substantial monetary sum for the damages you caused. If you are convicted Under CPC 192b, you could be easily found liable in the civil suit. Therefore seeking legal guidance is critical.
Defenses Against California Penal Code 192 (b) Charges
When the prosecutor attempts to prove your guilt under CPC 192b, they do not need to prove an intent since malice is unnecessary for involuntary manslaughter. However, it must be clear that you killed the alleged victim while engaging in an inherently dangerous act. Prosecutors, police, and the family of a victim may assume guilt where it does not exist. Sometimes you face criminal charges as a result of your presence when the crime occurred.
Fortunately, facing an arrest does not always translate to a conviction. However, with top-notch legal guidance, you can use the following defense strategies against your charges:
Self Defense and Defense for Others
If you killed another individual while acting in self-defense or defending another person, you might have a valid defense against manslaughter charges. Self-defense laws in California allow killing someone if you genuinely believe that ending the victim's life was necessary to avert the danger of death or serious injury from you or others.
This defense strategy will be effective if your lawyer can establish that you believed you were in danger and acted rationally under the circumstances. Also, you need to prove that the force you used was necessary to protect yourself.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
Sometimes, the circumstances surrounding involuntary manslaughter are clear, deciding to make an arrest and conviction quick and easy. However, in some instances, the police may arrest you based on mere suspicions, or the circumstances under which the alleged victim died are not clear. When the prosecution lacks enough clear evidence to link you with the crime, you have a better chance of fighting the charges for less penalty or, better yet, walking free.
With the help of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, you can challenge the prosecutor's version of events through further investigation and re-examining the evidence. If you can dispute the link between you and the unintentional killing, then prosecution may not secure your conviction.
Sometimes, death could result from an accident without recklessness or negligence. To prove your guilt for involuntary manslaughter, the prosecution must prove without a reasonable doubt that you acted with criminal negligence with the knowledge that your actions were dangerous. Therefore, claiming that the death was an accident is a way to challenge the prosecutor's testimony on negligence. If your attorney can prove a lack of negligence, the accident defense is viable for your case.
False Accusations and wrongful Arrest
When a loved one dies in unclear circumstances, most individuals will try to ignore the part their loved ones played in their death through negligence and may try to blame it on others. Law enforcement and prosecution are bound to be involved when a suspicious death occurs. Due to society's pressure and expectations to hold someone responsible, authorities may jump to a conclusion without proper investigations.
Sometimes anger and jealousy could push someone to blame you for a crime you did not commit. For example, if you believe that you are a victim of wrongful Arrest or false accusations, you can employ this defense.
Offenses Related to Involuntary Manslaughter in California
Violation of CPC 192(b) is a serious and violent felony that attracts life-changing consequences. Under the California Penal Code, some offenses are related to this crime and could be charged alongside or instead of involuntary manslaughter, including:
Murder is the killing of a human being or fetus with malice afterthought. Murder is the most aggravated form of homier, and the malice aspect differentiates it from manslaughter. Murder is classified into first and second degrees depending on the circumstances under which the crime occurred. Regardless of the degree of murder with which you are charged, the prosecutor must prove these elements before you face a conviction:
- You caused the death of another person or a fetus. You will only be convicted for murder if the alleged victim's death was a direct consequence of your actions.
- You acted with malice afterthought. Malice intends to kill another person by engaging in an intentional act whose consequences are dangerous to human life.
- You committed the crime without a lawful justification.
The penalties that accompany a murder conviction vary by degree. A conviction for a first-degree murder attracts twenty-five years to a life prison sentence. If you commit murder due to someone else’s race, gender, or religion-based hate, you could receive a life sentence without parole. Capital murder is the most serious felony under the California Penal code, and a conviction attracts a death sentence or life without parole.
If you face a conviction for second-degree murder, you may face a maximum of fifteen years in prison. However, when you are battling murder charges, your attorney can help you seek a plea deal for involuntary manslaughter, a less serious offense.
If you intentionally cause the death of another person without a malice afterthought, you will be charged with voluntary manslaughter under CPC 192. A malice afterthought is a wanton disregard to human life to an intention to commit the crime. The element of malice afterthought is what differentiates voluntary manslaughter from the more serious murder charge. Mostly, voluntary manslaughter is the killing that occurs in the heat of passion or during a sudden heated quarrel.
When you are charged with involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor can seek a more serious charge of voluntary manslaughter by proving that you acted willfully. In California, voluntary manslaughter is always charged as a felony and is punishable by:
- A prison sentence of up to eleven years
- Fines that do not exceed $10,000
- A strike on your record under California three strikes law
- Loss of the right to purchase or use a firearm
- Mandatory counseling
Sometimes, charges for voluntary manslaughter arise when your murder charge is reduced. Mainly, prosecutors will file a murder charge after a homicide, but they might agree to a voluntary manslaughter plea with a proper defense.
Under California PC 192c, the offense of vehicular manslaughter occurs when you act negligently while driving a motor vehicle, and as a result, you cause death to another person. Vehicular manslaughter is one of the most severe crimes that one could commit while driving an automobile. A negligent act that results in vehicular manslaughter must not be felonious. However, it should depict reckless disregard for human life. If you caused the death of another person while driving, you could face vehicular manslaughter charges instead of involuntary manslaughter.
Before you face a conviction for violation of CPC 192c, the prosecution must prove that:
- You were operating a vehicle. Vehicular manslaughter is a crime that only occurs when you are driving. Therefore, a prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving when you committed the crime.
- You committed an offense that is not a felony. In most cases, speeding or other traffic violations may be considered unlawful acts that resulted in vehicular manslaughter.
- You acted in gross or ordinary negligence. Your actions are considered to be grossly negligent if you acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of others. On the other hand, ordinary negligence is the failure to take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of other people.
- You caused the death of another person. You cannot be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter unless your negligent act caused the death of the alleged victim. If the death resulted from other factors unrelated to your conduct, you could not face a conviction.
In California, vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler. The nature of your charges is determined by the specific details of your case and your criminal history. A misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter is punishable by a jail sentence of one year and a $1,000 fine.
On the other hand, a felony conviction for this crime attracts a prison sentence not exceeding four years and fines of up to $10,000. In addition, if you flee the scene after vehicular manslaughter, your prison sentence may be enhanced by up to five years. Vehicular manslaughter is a serious offense, and legal guidance will go a long way for you when you face these charges.
Frequently Asked Questions about Involuntary Manslaughter Cases
Involuntary manslaughter is a serious offense, and it attracts life-changing consequences if you are convicted. Therefore, when you or your loved one faces charges for this crime under CPC 192(b), you may want to know more about the crime so that you can know what to expect for your situation. The following are some frequently asked questions about involuntary manslaughter:
How does an involuntary Manslaughter case differ from voluntary manslaughter?
The circumstances that result in the criminal charges are what make a difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. You face charges for involuntary manslaughter when you kill another person due to a negligent act. However, killing a person due to mental or emotional distress will attract charges for voluntary manslaughter. Additionally, a conviction for voluntary manslaughter attracts more serious penalties. If you are convicted for voluntary manslaughter, you will face a mandatory prison sentence of up to eleven years and a strike on your record.
Will an involuntary manslaughter conviction count as a strike on my record?
No. Even though involuntary manslaughter is a serious and violent felony, it does not count as a California Three Strikes Law strike. This is because, in most cases, the crime occurs as a result of negligence and not intentional. However, if the prosecutor can establish substantial emotional distress resulting from the victim's death, you could face charges for voluntary manslaughter. In addition, when you have a strike in your criminal record, your penalties for subsequent convictions could be enhanced.
Are there civil consequences for involuntary manslaughter in California?
Yes. In addition to the legal consequences accompanying a conviction for involuntary manslaughter, you may be subject to a wrongful death civil lawsuit. Even though a civil lawsuit does not jeopardize your freedom, the court may require you to compensate the victim's family for the losses incurred due to wrongful death.
Can an involuntary manslaughter charge be reduced to attempted involuntary manslaughter?
No. Since involuntary manslaughter does not occur intentionally, an attempt to commit it is legally impossible. You can only be charged with an attempt to commit a crime if you acted intentionally. Even though involuntary manslaughter is a lesser offense compared to homicide charges, it is not a lesser included offense for voluntary manslaughter.
Can I use intoxication as a defense against involuntary manslaughter?
If you unknowingly caused the death of another person due to voluntary intoxication, you can still face a conviction for involuntary manslaughter. When you are voluntarily intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness, the law requires that you take responsibility for your actions while in that state of mind.
If you committed the crime while intoxicated and operating a motor vehicle, you may be charged with vehicular manslaughter. In addition to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, causing the death of another person while drunk driving could attract second-degree murder charges.
Contact a Riverside Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you kill another person due to an act of negligence or while committing another crime, you can be arrested for and charged with involuntary manslaughter. A conviction for involuntary manslaughter can be devastating due to the severe consequences the crime attracts. Fortunately, not all arrests for this crime will result in a conviction. With guidance from a competent criminal defense attorney, you can build a solid defense to fight the charges and secure your freedom.
Defense against involuntary manslaughter charges can be challenging due to the nature of the crime. Therefore, it is critical to rely on guidance from an attorney with deep knowledge and experience in criminal defense. If you or your loved one is facing charges for involuntary manslaughter, contact Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm for competent legal guidance. If you are in Riverside, CA, you will need us by your side. Call us today at 951-946-6366 to discuss more details of your case.