If you are facing a criminal charge based on a homicide, you should pay attention to the specific nature of the charge. Murder is not the only criminal offense based on a homicide. A prosecutor may decide that manslaughter is the more appropriate charge.
Whether someone will be prosecuted for murder or manslaughter depends on the facts of the case.
An act that constitutes murder
To qualify as murder, the act must – with a few exceptions – include an intention to kill. The perpetrator must have intended to kill someone or acted with malice when the victim was killed. State of mind will be a critical consideration for the prosecutor in deciding on the criminal charge.
An act that constitutes manslaughter
Manslaughter frequently involves an unintentional killing. There is no pre-existing malice to guide the act. Instead, the person acted in a reckless manner that causes the death of a person.
Even if the perpetrator was acting in self-defense, the act could count as manslaughter if there was no reasonable belief to use force in defense. While manslaughter is a serious charge, the penalties are generally less severe than if someone receives a murder conviction.
Different types of manslaughter
In California, a criminal defendant can be charged with a specific type of manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter occurs in the heat of the moment, such as during an argument. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person acts carelessly and causes the death of another person. There is also vehicular manslaughter, when the death of another person results from the defendant’s driving of a vehicle in a negligent or reckless manner.