Common Legal Defenses of California Voluntary Manslaughter
California voluntary manslaughter law covers killings committed during a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. Penal Code section 192(a) states that anybody who commits unlawful killing of another person without malice, upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion, will receive charges of voluntary manslaughter.
Voluntary manslaughter in California is a lesser included offense to murder. Prosecutors rarely file Penal Code 192 as an original charge. The offense usually comes up in murder cases, where the defendant admits to killing the victim but seeks to have the charges reduced from murder to manslaughter.
Prosecutors in a murder case may agree to a plea bargain in which the accused pleads guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a dismissal of the murder charge. Alternatively, the jury in a murder trial could find the defendant guilty of the lesser offense of manslaughter, rather than the charged offense of murder.
California law permits a defendant to use deadly force for their protection or other persons if they reasonably believe that their life or safety or the life or safety of other persons is in danger. In such a case, a valid self-defense claim would exist.
In a case where the voluntary manslaughter resulted from the defendant’s mental illness, there may be a valid insanity defense, as the defendant may not have had full awareness of their actions and the consequences of them.
Sentences and penalties for California voluntary manslaughter are severe. For instance, if a person is convicted of voluntary manslaughter in California under Penal Code 192(a) PC, they can be sentenced to three, six, or 11 years in state prison.
California law considers a conviction for voluntary manslaughter a “strike offense,” meaning that it is among the most severe crimes in the golden state. If a person is convicted of voluntary manslaughter in California, they will have a “strike” on their criminal record. A strike means that if a person is ever convicted of a felony in the future, their possible sentence will double from what their sentence would have been. If a person receives two strike offenses in their lifetime, in other words, if they are convicted of another felony strike offense in the future, their sentence will likely be between 25 years to life in prison.