Causing the death of another person, whether you intended to or not, can result in serious criminal charges. If you have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Los Angeles it is important to speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can. At The Rodriguez Law Group, our attorneys understand that a criminal conviction would be devastating for your future.
When you hire us to represent you, we will aggressively defend you against any allegations of criminal conduct and fight to secure the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.
Manslaughter or Murder?
What is the difference between murder and manslaughter? In California, murder is defined as killing another person with malice aforethought. This basically means that you intended to kill another person and carried out your plan. Manslaughter, on the other hand, is defined as the unlawful killing of another person without malice aforethought. This includes deaths that are unplanned, provoked, and/or the result of negligent behavior.
Manslaughter can be charged in addition to murder (as a lesser included offense) or as a standalone offense. The penalties for the crime will remain the same, regardless of whether it is used as a safety net by the prosecutors (if they think they may not be successful in proving murder) or the single charge you face.
What is Involuntary Manslaughter?
California divides manslaughter into three distinct subcategories: voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular. Involuntary manslaughter, as defined in Penal Code 192(b) PC, occurs when you cause the death of another person while:
- Committing a misdemeanor crime; or
- Committing a lawful act with criminal negligence.
The definition for involuntary manslaughter explicitly excludes deaths caused while operating a motor vehicle.
Crime Not Amounting to a Felony
If you cause another person’s death while you are committing a misdemeanor you can face criminal charges for involuntary manslaughter. It is important to emphasize that the underlying crime must be a misdemeanor. Killing another person while committing a felony will trigger much more serious felony-murder charges.
You can also face criminal charges for involuntary manslaughter if you kill another person while engaged in lawful behavior if your conduct is considered criminally negligent. In California, criminally negligent behavior exists when:
- You act in a reckless way that creates a high risk of serious bodily injury or death; and
- A reasonable person in your shoes would have known that this behavior created this risk.
In other words, you will be considered to be criminally negligent when the way you act “is so different from the way an ordinarily careful person would act” under the same circumstances. It is important to understand that criminal negligence and ordinary negligence are not the same. Criminally negligent behavior requires much more than ordinary carelessness.
Examples of Involuntary Manslaughter
Examples of conduct that may trigger criminal charges for involuntary manslaughter include:
- You making a false report of a crime as a prank by calling 911. Police respond to the call and fatally shoot a suspect in reliance on your false report.
- You grab and wave a gun while you’re fighting with your significant other. The gun goes off accidentally, fatally injuring your partner.
- You are a store owner and decide to sell baby formula after the product has expired by altering the date on the label. An infant contracts a foodborne illness as a result and dies.
- You have a bad day and decide to have a couple of drinks and smoke a cigarette in bed. You pass out while the cigarette is still lit. The cigarette causes the house to catch on fire. Your children, who are sleeping in the next room, are killed in the blaze.
Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter
While involuntary manslaughter is considered to be a less serious criminal offense than voluntary manslaughter or murder, a conviction will still result in felony-level penalties. Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in prison, $10,000 in criminal fines, and/or formal probation.
If you are convicted of an act of involuntary manslaughter that involved a firearm, your conviction may be classified as a strike for the purposes of California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law. Having a strike on your criminal record will cause the penalties for any future crimes to be aggravated. If you are convicted of a future offense and have multiple strikes on your record you will likely be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Collateral consequences are social and civil sanctions that exist simply because you have been convicted of a crime. These sanctions can make it incredibly difficult to live a normal life, and will often cause you to lose out on privileges you may have taken for granted. Collateral consequences that may exist after you are convicted of involuntary manslaughter include:
- Loss of gun ownership rights;
- Prohibitions on working in certain industries (healthcare, education, government);
- Revocation of professional licenses;
- Adverse child custody and/or visitation decisions;
- Difficulty securing gainful employment; and
- Difficulty renting or buying a home.
If you negligently cause the death of another person you may face both civil and criminal charges. The estate, personal representative, and family members of your victim may be entitled to recover compensation from you for the unexpected loss of their loved one. If you are found guilty in a civil wrongful death lawsuit you can expect to pay damages for medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages and monetary support, and emotional distress.
Fighting Involuntary Manslaughter Charges in Los Angeles
When you are charged with a crime in Los Angeles you have the right to assert a defense. The arguments you present in your defense should help to explain, excuse, and/or justify your behavior. When these defenses are persuasive the state will have a much harder time proving that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Faced with a losing case, the prosecution may be more willing to offer a plea bargain or dismiss the charges altogether. Defenses that may be helpful in your Los Angeles involuntary manslaughter case include:
- Defense of another person;
- The death was an accident; or
- Violation of your Constitutional rights.
If the state has gathered evidence in violation of your rights they should not be able to benefit from breaking the law. When we discover that your rights have been violated out attorneys will immediately file a motion to suppress any tainted evidence. Faced with a lack of evidence to support their case, the state will be forced to negotiate.
Los Angeles Involuntary Manslaughter Defense Attorney
Are you facing criminal charges for your role in the untimely death of another person? If so, contact criminal defense lawyer Ambrosio E. Rodriguez for help. Mr. Rodriguez is a former prosecutor who understands just how devastating a criminal conviction can be. He will fight tirelessly to make sure that your rights are protected and that you get the best possible outcome in your criminal case.
Call The Rodriguez Law Group today to schedule a free consultation and learn more. We will review your case, answer your questions, and explain how we think your criminal case should be handled.