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Defenses to an involuntary manslaughter charge in California

A California resident may face an involuntary manslaughter charge when accused of causing the unintentional death of another individual during the commission of a non-felony crime or while engaging in lawful but reckless behavior. To prove their case, prosecutors must establish that the accused individual knew, or would have reason to know, that their actions were dangerous. While it is not necessary for a prosecutor to establish an intent to kill or cause harm in an involuntary manslaughter case, it must be shown that the defendant intended to commit the underlying crime.

Self defense is often used as a defense to an involuntary manslaughter charge, but the defendant must demonstrate that they reasonably suspected that either their life or the life of another was in peril. The amount of force used by the defendant must also be proportional to the perceived threat. A criminal defense attorney could also argue that the actions of the defendant were not reckless and the resulting death was accidental.

A defense attorney may also closely scrutinize the evidence in an involuntary manslaughter case. Prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and this can be difficult to do if the evidence was not properly obtained or fails to establish a solid link between the act in question and the unintended death.

Sometimes an attorney will seek to avoid a trial altogether by negotiating a plea agreement with the prosecutor involved. Prosecutors often work under a heavy caseload, and they may be agreeable to a negotiated plea even when the evidence in their case appears strong. A defense attorney could seek to have charges reduced by pointing out mitigating factors such as their client's prior good behavior and genuine remorse.

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