Getting charged for any crime can be extremely overwhelming and stressful. Contact Sacramento criminal attorney Richard Dudek  for consultation today.

Manslaughter Charges in California

Getting charged with any type of manslaughter can not only be an emotional and challenging time in your life, but it can also affect the rest of your life and the loved ones around in many ways. Whatever the circumstances may be, contact a criminal defense attorney in Sacramento immediately for legal representation.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is the killing of another person intentionally or due to reckless behavior. The difference between murder and voluntary manslaughter is whether there was “malice aforethought.” Malice aforethought is essentially thinking ahead of the crime. If you planned or made actions towards the killing before the actual event, that is considered murder. If you killed someone in the heat of the moment, the state of California presumes you acted without malice and issues a charge of voluntary manslaughter. If you have been charged with voluntary manslaughter, seek legal advice from a criminal defense attorney in Sacramento.

“Heat of passion” or the heat of the moment is defined by the state of California as any violent or intense emotion that causes a person to act spontaneously. Killing someone during the heat of the moment includes:

  • You were provoked – California courts have not established an exact criteria for what constitutes as sufficient provocation. They have only said the provocation cannot be slight or remote.
  • Due to provocation, your behavior was influenced by your emotions and you acted without thinking
  • This provocation would have caused the average individual to act irrationally and without thinking – The provocation must be significant enough that the average person would also react emotionally instead of rationally if he or she were in the same situation.

If there was a “cooling off” period during which there was time to regain the ability to think rationally, the charge may be for murder instead of voluntary manslaughter as this provides time for aforethought.Voluntary manslaughter is always a felony and may result in the following penalties:

  • Up to 11 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • A “strike” that counts towards the three strike rule
  • Loss of firearm
  • Community service
  • Counseling

The penalties are serious but having a skilled criminal defense attorney in Sacramento by your side, is the best thing you can do to reduce your charges.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is when an individual is killed on accident due to the behavior of the defendant. The separate elements of involuntary manslaughter include:

  • The defendant committed a California infraction, misdemeanor, or other crime that is not inherently a dangerous felony OR the defendant was acting in an unlawful manner. It is required that the defendant was acting illegally in some way. Simple freak accidents in which a person is killed will not result in an involuntary manslaughter case. If the defendant was committing a felony that is “inherently dangerous,” he or she will be charged with murder under California’s felony-murder rule, not involuntary manslaughter. This makes it an exception to the rule that murder or voluntary manslaughter requires some aforethought – even if the defendant did not mean to kill anyone, if a death occurs during a dangerous felony, it results in a murder charge.
  • The defendant committed this crime or act with “criminal negligence”. Criminal negligence occurs when a person acts in a reckless manner that dramatically increases the risk of death or great bodily injury to others and any reasonable person would have known that acting in this manner would create this risk.
  • These actions caused another person’s death. Cause is determined if the death was the direct, natural, and probable consequence of the defendant’s behavior and if the death would not have occurred had the defendant not behaved as he or she did.

Involuntary manslaughter is always a felony in California with potential penalties such as:

  • Up to four years in jail
  • Felony probation
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Involuntary manslaughter also often results in a civil lawsuit brought on by the victim’s family. In a successful case, involuntary manslaughter defendants can end up owing large sums of money to the family. Due to the high emotions and complex circumstances in these cases, seek legal advice from a criminal defense attorney in Sacramento who understands what factors go into these cases.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter is very similar to involuntary manslaughter except that it includes a motor vehicle. Vehicular manslaughter, when committed with ordinary negligence, is classified as a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in county jail.

If vehicular manslaughter occurs due to gross negligence, which is similar to criminal negligence required for involuntary manslaughter, then the crime is labeled “gross vehicular manslaughter.” Gross vehicular manslaughter is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. A misdemeanor gross vehicular manslaughter charge is punishable by up to a year in county jail. If charged as a felony, the potential penalties include up to six years of jail time. There are additional factors that can affect how you are charged for vehicular manslaughter. Seek legal representation from an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney in Sacramento.

If the defendant is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, this will result in a vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charge. These charges have more severe penalties than their non-vehicular counterparts. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and exhibiting a normal amount of negligence is a wobbler that may result in up to three years in prison. Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is always a felony and may result in up to 10 years in state prison.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Sacramento is Here to Help

Getting charged with any type of crime can be an emotionally stressful and difficult time in your life and the life of loved ones. Having a tenacious and compassionate criminal defense attorney in Sacramento who knows the penal codes and available defenses by your side can make all the difference in your case. Give Richard Dudek a call at (916) 414-3700 for all your criminal defense needs.


Getting charged for any crime can be extremely overwhelming and stressful. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that there are defenses you can take so all hope is not lost. With over a decade of experience with the Sacramento courts, Law Offices of Richard Dudek advocates for your interests regardless of the crime. The Law Offices of Richard Dudek offers comprehensive criminal defense from the beginning of your case through the final appeal. Sacramento criminal defense lawyer Richard Dudek is certified as a Specialist in Criminal Law by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Contact us online or by telephone at (916) 444-7595 to arrange a personal consultation with Richard Dudek today.

901 H Street, Suite 310
Sacramento, CA 95814 US
Phone: (916) 444-7595

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