Perhaps the most serious criminal act under Pennsylvania criminal law is taking a life away from a human. The overall category of crime involving taking a human life are often known as “homicide charges,” though by law they are broken down into different sub-crimes like murder or manslaughter depending on multiple factors including whether the killing was intentional. Manslaughter can further be broken down into two separate charges, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The Law Offices of Lloyd Long’s Philadelphia homicide defense attorneys explain the difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, what penalties you can face for each, and how we can help you with your manslaughter case.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter Charges in Pennsylvania
Murder charges in Pennsylvania are reserved for cases of intentional killings. For killings that were not entirely intentional or were unintentional, but where the person who did the killing still bears some criminal fault, there is a separate charge known as manslaughter that can apply. The two types of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, apply to different types of non-intentional homicides as explained in the sections below.
An involuntary manslaughter charge will apply when a killing occurs as a result of someone’s reckless or grossly negligent, but not intentional, conduct. For example, killing someone as a result of reckless or intoxicated driving can be charged as involuntary manslaughter. Another example might be child neglect charged in a situation where a parent leaves a baby in a hot car and the baby dies. In order to successfully prove an involuntary manslaughter case, the prosecutor must show that your actions were sufficiently connected to the death to prove causation. A skilled involuntary manslaughter attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long will work to show that the events were too far removed and that your actions did not reach the level of criminal recklessness or negligence.
Voluntary manslaughter can be charged in one of two situations. Under the PA criminal code, “A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits voluntary manslaughter if at the time of the killing he is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation.” The classic example of this would be a person walking into their home to find their spouse in bed with another person, and killing that person in a “sudden and intense passion.” This charge cannot apply unless a subjective review finds that the circumstances would have caused a passionate or emotional reaction in a reasonable person. It also cannot apply if too much time has passed between the triggering event and the killing, meaning a significant “cooling down period” has occurred.
The second situation in which voluntary manslaughter might be charged is where a person has a genuine but unreasonable belief that they need to use deadly force to protect themselves or others. For example, a situation where you see kill someone shooting at you with a water gun, but you genuinely believed it was a real gun, may call for this charge.
What’s the Average Sentence for Manslaughter in PA?
Although involuntary manslaughter is not typically charged as a felony, it is still a first-degree misdemeanor. As such, it can be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Where the victim is under 12 years of age and is in the care, custody or control of the person who caused the death, however, involuntary manslaughter is a second-degree felony, punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. Either iteration of the voluntary manslaughter crime, on the other hand, is typically charged as a first-degree felony, for which an offender can face 10 to 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. Penalties can be increased if this is a second or further offense.
It is difficult to say what an average sentence is, as this will depend on numerous factor including the circumstances of the charges and your criminal history. If you are convicted, skilled Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lloyd Long can work to convince the judge you deserve the most lenient sentence for your manslaughter charges possible.
How Can A Philadelphia Manslaughter Attorney Help Me with My Case?
After you are arrested for manslaughter, you will typically be taken to the local police station for the booking process, where you will be fingerprinted and photographed and your biographical information will be collected. Then you will be held in the station’s holding cell or at the local jail until your preliminary arraignment and bail hearing can occur, usually no more than 48 hours after your arrest and booking. The fact that these important events occur so soon after your arrest makes it all the more important that you or a loved one reach out to our skilled manslaughter defense attorney as soon as possible so that we can have time to prepare and appear by your side.
At the bail hearing, the judge will decide if you can be released or must remain in jail until the case is resolved. Our experienced Philadelphia bail hearing attorneys can make the most persuasive argument for you to be released on little or no bail based on the factors we know the judges to consider. At you arraignment, your attorney will typically advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty while we assess the strength of the case.
Once your bail and arraignment have been dealt with, we will turn our attention to requesting any outstanding discovery and trying to work out a deal with the prosecutor for your charges to be dismissed or downgraded to something less serious. Of course, if you don’t want to take a deal, our veteran Philadelphia criminal arraignment attorneys are always ready to fight for a not guilty verdict in the courtroom.
If You Were Charged with Manslaughter, Call Our Seasoned Philadelphia Manslaughter Attorneys Today
Whether you are charged with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, you are facing a serious situation that could result in your spending decades behind bars. As such, you should act swiftly to retain a skilled Philadelphia manslaughter defense attorney. The Delaware County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Lloyd Long will use all of our skill and experienced to fight for you through every step of your case so the matter can be brought to the best possible resolution for you and for your future. Call us today at (215) 302-0171 for a free consultation.