California law distinguishes between different forms of homicide, which is the unlawful killing of another person. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the accused was not aware of the risk posed by their conduct, and did not have the intent to kill. If you are facing charges for involuntary manslaughter, murder, or another violent crime, an experienced San Bernardino and Riverside County homicide lawyer can help. At The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings, we investigate the facts pertaining to your criminal charges, and create a defense strategy tailored to the specifics of your case. Attorney Comings prioritizes his accessibility to clients because he understands the uncertainty and stress caused by criminal accusations. Clients working with our office throughout Southern California will receive tenacious legal advocacy as we strive to have their criminal charges reduced or dismissed.
An unintentional killing of another person may be charged as involuntary manslaughter. California Penal Code section 192(b) sets forth three kinds of manslaughter charges: voluntary, involuntary, and vehicular. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a sudden argument or the heat of passion leads to an unlawful killing. Involuntary manslaughter is a killing that occurs during an unlawful act that is not an inherently dangerous felony, or a lawful act committed in an unlawful way or without “due caution and circumspection.” Vehicular manslaughter is the death of a person due to gross negligence or in a manner that might lead to death while the defendant is driving a vehicle.
The elements of involuntary manslaughter are: (1) an unlawful act or a lawful act committed in an unlawful manner; (2) “criminal negligence”; and (3) death. The underlying act that leads to death can take different forms. For example, a defendant who commits a traffic violation, misdemeanor, or a felony not deemed “inherently dangerous” by law may be charged with involuntary manslaughter if their actions led to someone’s death. Involuntary manslaughter charges may also apply when a defendant does not meet their legal duty owed to others, and a death results. For instance, a doctor who denies care to his terminally ill patient could face involuntary manslaughter charges.
Criminal negligence refers to actions that create a high risk of death or great bodily injury, and that show a disregard for human life. A prosecuting attorney alleging criminal negligence must show that a reasonable person, under similar circumstances, would know their actions may create severe risk. The defendant may not have broken the law, but their conduct must show a disregard for human life. In some situations, this can occur when someone does not care about the consequences of their actions.
For all involuntary manslaughter charges, the prosecution must also show that the defendant’s acts were the direct cause of death. This means that the victim’s death was the natural, probable consequence of the defendant’s conduct. When there is more than one cause of death, the defendant’s actions must be a substantial factor.
As a felony, involuntary manslaughter can lead to up to four years of imprisonment. Additionally, defendants can face a fine of up to ten thousand dollars. In some situations, defendants may face civil claims in a wrongful death lawsuit in addition to criminal charges. Substantial monetary damages may be awarded to the family of the deceased or their personal representative in civil court.
A defendant facing involuntary manslaughter charges may assert that they were not negligent, and that the killing was an accident. If the defendant was unaware of the consequences of their actions, they may have a defense. For instance, if a professional basketball player reasonably misses a shot during a game and the ball lands in the audience, killing a fan, most likely the player was not acting negligently.
Self defense, or defense of another, may apply in certain cases involving involuntary manslaughter. The defendant must show that at the time of the alleged crime they had a reasonable belief that they or another person were in danger of being killed, robbed, or raped. They must also have reasonably believed that immediate use of deadly force was necessary to defend against that perceived danger.
If you are facing criminal charges, you can contact San Bernardino and Riverside County attorney Gregory H. Comings. The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings provides a phone consultation to those in need of legal representation. Attorney Comings represents clients throughout Temecula, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Moreno Valley, Indio, Redlands, San Bernardino, Fontana, Riverside, and Rancho Cucamonga. To reach our office call (951) 686-3457 or contact us online.