Although it falls under the umbrella of homicide, “voluntary manslaughter” is a type of charge which involves the death of another but is not considered as serious a charge as murder. The main difference between the two is intention. A person convicted of murder killed another person deliberately, with what the law refers to as “malice aforethought.” A person charged with voluntary manslaughter will have been provoked and acted with sudden passion.
The defendant will need to prove all three elements: provocation, passion and lack of cooling-off time. Breaking down these factors helps outline even clearer the impact they can make on a prosecution’s decision to charge someone with voluntary manslaughter vs. murder.
Heat of Passion: This refers to someone who lost emotional control for a moment, causing the death of another. In order to prove that a defendant acted in the heat of passion, their attorney must show that they succumbed to provocation and were overcome by the circumstances of the moment and their emotions. These emotions play a large role in determining whether or not there was intent to murder or irresistible passion leading to manslaughter.
Provocation: Proving provocation means far more than just showing that the defendant was provoked by the victim. Indeed, mere insulting words alone will not support a verdict of voluntary manslaughter. Even racial epithets, financial disagreements and offensive gestures alone are not enough to justify manslaughter. Rather, a heated argument with a history of violence, or the classic case of the defendant learning of adultery either through argument or walking in on the act are examples of sufficient provocation. The defendant must also show that a reasonable person would act in the same way.
Lack of Cooling-off Time: Manslaughter happens in an instant. If there is any time for the defendant to think about what he is doing and “for the voice of reason and humanity to be heard,” then “the killing shall be attributed to deliberate revenge and be punished as murder.”
A defendant can also pursue involuntary manslaughter charges vs. voluntary manslaughter or murder charges if they can show that the death was unintentional. Generally speaking, a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when they committed an unlawful act (not a felony) that caused someone’s death, but they did not intend for the act to kill anyone.
There are fine distinctions to involuntary manslaughter. If the death was the unintentional result of a felony, then the defendant would be guilty of felony murder which, has the same punishment as malice murder (death, life without parole or life with parole). If the death was totally accidental, not the result of any unlawful conduct, then no crime occurred.
For the act to be involuntary manslaughter, the death must be caused by an unlawful act, but not a felony.
What are the Penalties?
In the state of Georgia, a voluntary manslaughter conviction is considered a felony, with a prison sentence between one year at a minimum and 20 years maximum. The guilty party may also be exposed to civil litigation brought about by the family of the victim.
But the penalties don’t end with the completion of a prison sentence. As a felony conviction, voluntary manslaughter stays on your criminal record forever and will show up on any background checks. This red flag may keep those who have been convicted from securing employment, a place to work, higher education or a loan. It can also have an impact on child custody and visitation rights. In some cases, a judge may grant a record restriction, which keeps the conviction out of the public record and visible only to law enforcement and the government.
Beyond that, those who have a felony conviction on their record can expect to surrender some of their civil liberties, including second amendment rights, voting rights, the right to hold public office and the right to receive public benefits. They may also be barred from entering other countries.
How Can Busbee Law Group Help?
Anywhere you are in Georgia, Busbee Law Group will come to you to help you fight the charges brought against you. And because of the way we approach the law, we will provide for you the best possible defense. We keep our caseloads low, so that every client gets our signature dedication and diligence. Our legal team digs deeper, investigating every detail as we build your defense. Because of this, our attorneys walk into every case better prepared than the other side.
We want to succeed, because we want you to succeed. Because you’re more than just a client. You are a person with rights and a story that needs to be told to gain back your freedom and dignity. You may have been charged. But that doesn’t mean you have been found guilty.
There are countless ways to have criminal charges reduced or dismissed. To take back control or your life and sleep better tonight, please use the contact form below to schedule a free, confidential consultation with Busbee Law Group.