Any kind of homicide charge is a very serious thing, including voluntary manslaughter, and Pennsylvania is not known for its leniency in this area of the law. Punishments for killing another person can be severe, from years in prison to the death penalty. But it is important to know that there are grades of charges, and grades of penalties, in the law. Not all killings are the same, and not all defenses are the same.
If you are facing voluntary manslaughter charges in the Pennsylvania area, call Brian Manchester, an experienced voluntary manslaughter defense attorney in Pennsylvania. Call today. It is important to start working on your defense right away.
Criminal Homicide and Voluntary Manslaughter in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, criminal homicide is any act that intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently causes the death of another person. Murder is the most serious of these offenses. Manslaughter covers the rest, with a few exceptions for crimes such as assisted suicide that are laid out in special statutes. The primary difference between murder and manslaughter is one of culpability, or guilty mind. To commit murder, the killer must act with at least some degree of malice. Manslaughter, on the other hand, is committed without malice but is still unjustified and therefore illegal. Punishments for manslaughter are substantially less than those for murder, which can include life imprisonment and the death penalty (though this is almost never used in Pennsylvania). Voluntary manslaughter is the more serious kind of manslaughter.
Manslaughter: Voluntary and Involuntary in Pennsylvania
Manslaughter statutes in Pennsylvania cover most unlawful killings committed without malice. There are two types of manslaughter, distinguished mainly by circumstances and intent. The less serious of these is called involuntary manslaughter. This has the lowest culpability requirement of any type of criminal homicide, and it carries some of the lightest punishments. Involuntary manslaughter is defined as killing another person while engaged in a reckless or grossly negligent act, whether lawful or unlawful. It is punishable in most cases by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for a first offense.
Voluntary Manslaughter: Provocation and Unreasonable Belief in Pennsylvania
Voluntary Manslaughter is the more serious of the two types of manslaughter in Pennsylvania. In essence, it covers killings committed intentionally or knowingly but without the malice required of murder. There are two sets of circumstances where it applies. First, it covers situations where a defendant is provoked into killing another person in a heat of passion, or where the defendant accidentally kills a third person while trying to kill the provoker. The provocation must be serious enough that it would create a passionate reaction from any reasonable person, and prosecutors will charge a defendant with murder rather than voluntary manslaughter if he had time to cool off between the provocation and the killing. Voluntary manslaughter also covers situations where a defendant intentionally or knowingly kills another person under the mistaken and unreasonable belief he is acting in self defense. Voluntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine for a first offense.
Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses in Pennsylvania
Raising a defense to a voluntary manslaughter charge depends heavily on the facts. Was the defendant acting in self-defense rather than responding to provocation? Was this really an intentional killing, or was it an accidental or negligent killing? Were the defendant’s beliefs in fact reasonable under the circumstances? Does this better fit as an involuntary manslaughter charge? These are all important questions.
If you or a loved one are in the Pennsylvania area and have been charged with voluntary manslaughter, call Brian Manchester, an experienced voluntary manslaughter defense lawyer in Pennsylvania. He can help you build the defense you need today.