Difference Between Murder and Voluntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter is when you kill somebody in the heat of passion or a sudden quarrel without prior motive.
In such cases, the prosecutors very rarely charge a suspect with voluntary manslaughter in the first instance. What happens is that the prosecutor charges the defendant with murder.
The defendant will then have to prove to the court that he/she had no motive to commit the said murder.
The difference between the two is really in the sentencing. If one is convicted of murder in California, the sentence is life in prison without parole. If one is convicted of voluntary manslaughter, then offense carries a sentence of 3 to 11 years. However, the sentence may be extended if a weapon was involved.
To reduce a murder charge to voluntary manslaughter, one must show that the killing was in the heat of passion. This means that there was some adequate provocation that caused one to lose control, and it’s a sort of provocation that would cause reasonable people to lose control in that situation.
A classic example of this is a married man who comes home and walks in on his wife having sex with a strange man. He goes ballistic and loses all rational thought, and he kills this stranger. This is an example of voluntary manslaughter. The man cannot argue that it was a self-defense case because the stranger was not threatening him.