What Distinguishes Voluntary from Involuntary Manslaughter?

The difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter is important to know, because this could make the difference between limited time in prison and a lifetime in prison. To learn more about the elements of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter in Massachusetts, keep reading this blog for more information.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter in Massachusetts

Elements of Voluntary Manslaughter

In Massachusetts, voluntary manslaughter is the intentional killing of another person. However, the act does not need to be premeditated, such as killing during mutual combat or after being provoked by the alleged victim. Note that the provocation has to be reasonable. For example, mere insults are not simply enough to constitute reasonable provocation for you to kill the person.

There are a few mitigating factors, though such as:

  • Heat of passion caused by reasonable provocation
  • Heat of passion caused by sudden combat
  • Excessive force used in self-defense or in the defense of another.

The decision about the severity of your voluntary manslaughter charges will be for a judge or jury to decide, though the law recognizes that emotions produced by provocations and situations like this can be extremely powerful and may cause some people to lose self-control. This loss of self-control makes a homicide into manslaughter, therefore decreasing the level of legal culpability.

Note that in Massachusetts, the difference between murder and voluntary manslaughter is the heat of passion as mentioned above. Both acts involve purposefully killing someone, but it is called voluntary manslaughter if the alleged killer acted when their thinking was disturbed by emotional excitement to the point that a reasonable person might have acted on impulse without thinking twice. That is, the killing itself must be the result of the emotional excitement or reasonable provocation for the act to be considered manslaughter over murder. This typically happens when a person is acting in self-defense but overreacts and kills another person, because the self-defense was "in the heat of passion." The reaction to kill has to happen instantaneously; if the person has had any time to "cool off" before they perform the killing, it will be constituted a murder. Voluntary manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years in state prison, fines, and possible restitution.

Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, occurs when someone unintentionally causes the death of another person when the defendant was engaging in some type of reckless conduct or while committing a serious battery upon another person. Note that unintentionally is defined as the defendant's intent to commit the act that ultimately caused the death of the victim, but not the intent to actually cause the death itself. Also, the wanton or reckless conduct addressed in the statute is conduct that creates a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result against another person.

Motor vehicle homicide is considered a criminal offense that punishes those that, due to their intoxication, operate a vehicle negligently and recklessly, causing the death of another person. Motor vehicle homicide charges can be either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on if the driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs.

The penalties for involuntary manslaughter include up to 20 years in state prison, fines, and possible restitution. For felony motor vehicle homicide, those convicted can face 2.5-15 years in jail or state prison, fines, and a 15-year license revocation. The revocation or suspension could last a lifetime if they have any prior OUI convictions on their driving record.

Charged with Manslaughter?

If you are or fear you might be charged with manslaughter in Massachusetts, it is important to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter conduct. Enlist the help of an experienced lawyer to represent your defense; a good attorney could argue a case of involuntary over voluntary manslaughter and even argue for mitigated charges, depending on the situation.

Contact Brad Bailey Law to discuss your case with a legal professional today.

Related Posts
  • What Is Involuntary Manslaughter in Massachusetts? Read More
  • What’s the Difference Between First-Degree and Second-Degree Murder? Read More
  • Is Manslaughter the Same as Accidental Killing? Read More