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Options for voluntary manslaughter defenses

Defenses used in voluntary manslaughter cases have the potential to help defendants in California to go free or obtain lesser charges. Defenses and sentencing vary from state to state, but involuntary manslaughter usually comes with less severe penalties and sentences. In court cases, manslaughter is considered any act where an individual has an intent to kill another person, either in a moment of passion or at a specific time and place. Involuntary manslaughter is usually applied when a person's negligent or reckless actions, such as driving while intoxicated, result in another person's death.

In some states, defendants can use the argument of insanity as a defense for voluntary manslaughter if their actions meet certain guidelines. Usually, they have to undergo a test to show that they have no sense of good or bad or are unaware of the consequences of their actions.

The defense that offers the best options for voluntary manslaughter charges is innocence, which can be used if the evidence points to the fact that a defendant did not commit the crime. With this type of defense, the defendant's side may try to show weakness in the prosecutor's argument. A self-defense argument could also potentially allow a defendant to go free or get a lesser sentence, depending on the type. The type of self-defense argument used usually depends largely on whether the defendant played a role as the aggressor in the situation.

When defendants face indictment or a jury trial for homicide or manslaughter, the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor. Defendants are considered innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In cases where manslaughter has been established, defendants may be able to use self-defense, accidental killing or intoxication defenses to try to argue for lesser charges, such as involuntary instead of voluntary manslaughter. A criminal law attorney may be able to help clients to mount defenses for manslaughter charges that fit with their cases.

Source: FindLaw, "Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses," Accessed April 30, 2015

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