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What distinguishes voluntary from involuntary manslaughter?

Manslaughter may not be as serious a charge as murder, but it is still a criminal offense that you should not take likely. A conviction for manslaughter could put you away in prison for as long as 10 years or more. Whether your situation qualifies for voluntary or involuntary manslaughter charges may be vital to your case.

There is an important distinction between these two types of manslaughter. One is more serious than the other and may incur more prison time and greater fines upon conviction.

Voluntary manslaughter

FindLaw explains that a court may judge you guilty of voluntary manslaughter if you acted in the heat of the moment to use force against someone and ended up killing the person. This is different than murder because you did not plan to take someone’s life. State law considers voluntary manslaughter to be an act of extreme indifference to human life and may hand down a punishment of 10 to 30 years.

Involuntary manslaughter

You might incur an involuntary manslaughter charge if a prosecutor believed you had no deliberate intention to harm someone but had committed a reckless act that resulted in someone’s death. Typically, involuntary manslaughter happens when someone engages in a legal activity like driving but behaves negligently. Reckless actions may include driving while under the influence or drowsy driving that causes you to get into a deadly accident.

Be aware of your options

Given that a great amount of your freedom is at stake if a court convicts you, it should be of concern whether a prosecutor will hand down a voluntary or involuntary manslaughter charge. In some cases, a person may argue self-defense as a reason for using force. Whatever legal defenses are open to you will depend on your case.

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