In California, the criminal code has created different legal classifications for the unlawful death of a person. While in popular culture or casual conversations people may call the death of a person an act of murder, the law is more nuanced. First or second-degree murder is separate topics and instead this article will focus on another classification: manslaughter.
According to California Penal Code 187 PC, “manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” As such, if a killing was not premeditated then it can be considered manslaughter. Manslaughter can be voluntary or involuntary. In the voluntary scenario, the accused would have killed the human being “upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” If for any reason the accused became very angry, and without planning the killing beforehand, killed someone, then murder would not apply.
In the involuntary scenario, the accused must have been acting unlawfully (but not a felony offense), acting lawful and in such a way that could potentially end up in death, or acting “without due caution and circumspection.” The accused must have reasonably known that their action(s) could result in the death of a human and be dangerous. However, the accused must have then still acted and disregarded the safety of the victim.
Penalties for manslaughter are severe. While it is not classified as murder, there are long prison sentences as well as massive damages to the accused’s personal life. If found guilty, the convicted individual faces over a decade in a California state prison, as well as payment to relevant parties involved in the case. If falsely accused, it is of the highest importance to immediately consult with an experienced criminal attorney.