3 Legal Differences in Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter

By  //  October 2, 2023

Being taken into police custody and charged with a crime is one of the most unsettling experiences a person can have in life.

Depending on your circumstances, you might have a lot at stake, including, perhaps, your freedom. If prosecutors have filed manslaughter charges against you, it is important to seek several clarifications, including whether the charges are for voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

It is best to learn as much as you can about the differences between the two crimes and the potential penalties you might endure if a judge or jury finds you guilty in a court of law. First and foremost, it is critical that you understand that manslaughter and murder are two separate crimes. Murder charges imply that your alleged actions were premeditated, meaning you thought ahead about your intentions and crafted a plan to kill someone. A manslaughter charge, on the other hand, alleges that you have killed someone without premeditation.

1- Voluntary Manslaughter Implies Intentional Behavior

A primary legal distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter concerns intentions. If you are accused of voluntary manslaughter, prosecutors are claiming to have evidence to prove that you killed someone on purpose. Again, without premeditation, they cannot charge you with murder. However, manslaughter is homicide. Voluntary manslaughter is intentional homicide.

This type of criminal charge is typically filed in cases where two (or more) people became engaged in a confrontation. Tempers flared, and in the heat of a moment, one person (allegedly) killed another. You have probably heard stories in the past about “crimes of passion,” where a spouse catches his or her partner with another lover and kills one or both people. This is an example of voluntary manslaughter.

2- External Issues Separate Involuntary Manslaughter From Voluntary

When a person has caused the death of another person in an involuntary manner, it means that he or she did not intend for the result of his or her actions to be fatal to the other person. Circumstances surrounding an incident often distinguish involuntary manslaughter from voluntary behavior. An example of this might be two people agreeing to have a car race, during which one driver loses control and collides with the other car, killing its driver.

Excessive driving speed or other external issues may result in an incident that causes a fatality. Because the external issues were causal factors in a person’s death, and the person facing charges did not intend to cause the death, such issues would distinguish the charges as involuntary as opposed to voluntary.

3- Provocation is a Legal Distinction Between Types of Manslaughter

A third legal distinction between voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter is provocation. Voluntary manslaughter refers to deaths occurring following provocation, such as a fight in a bar or a lover’s quarrel. Due to provocation, such crimes are often referred to as “crimes of passion.”

In either type of manslaughter case, retaining experienced criminal defense support is the key to obtaining as positive an outcome as possible in court. Your legal team will be able to guide you and help you understand which type of manslaughter your case falls under.