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What is the Penalty for Manslaughter in Pennsylvania?

Not every killing is considered murder. There are numerous levels and grades of criminal homicide, some very severe and others less so. However, any criminal homicide is an extremely serious case because it involves the death of another person. When a homicide does not quite rise to the level of murder, it could instead be charged as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

The penalty for manslaughter will depend on the type of manslaughter with which a defendant is charged. There are two forms of manslaughter in Pennsylvania: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter tends to be more serious as it involves deliberate and purposeful action by the defendant. It is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in state prison. Involuntary manslaughter is a lesser charge because it usually involves accidental killings. It is punishable by no more than 10 years in state prison if charged as a felony, but no more than 5 years if charged as a misdemeanor.

If you are facing charges for criminal homicide, our Philadelphia vehicular homicide lawyers might be able to help. If you are charged with manslaughter, we can help you fight your charges. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 to set up a free legal consultation regarding your case.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter Charges in Pennsylvania

The crime of manslaughter is broken into two distinct categories. The first category, involuntary manslaughter, typically covers accidental deaths where the defendant did not mean to hurt anyone, but their behavior was extremely negligent. The second category, voluntary manslaughter, is similar to murder but is committed under somewhat different conditions or circumstances. Whatever you are charged with, our Philadelphia manslaughter defense lawyers will help you navigate the legal processes of your case and eventual trial.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter can be found under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2504. The law describes involuntary manslaughter as a killing directly resulting from an unlawful act committed in a grossly negligent way. The law explains that involuntary manslaughter could also come from the commission of a lawful act done in a grossly negligent way. In either case, the intent to kill or cause harm is usually not present, and the killing is the accidental result of some other negligent behavior. For example, deaths resulting from car accidents are often charged as involuntary manslaughter if the responsible driver was driving negligently.

Involuntary manslaughter is typically charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. As such, it would only be punishable by up to 5 years in state prison. However, if the victim is under the age of 12 and in the care or custody of the person charged with their death, the crime is a second-degree felony. Such a felony would be punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.

Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter, as described under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2503, includes a killing out of an intense and sudden passion caused by serious provocation. The provocation must have come from the person killed or someone else whom the defendant intended to kill but instead killed the victim by mistake. Voluntary manslaughter also includes killings committed under a mistaken or unreasonable justification.

Some killings will not be criminally charged if they are justified. A justification is a circumstance that makes the killing necessary or unavoidable. For example, self-defense would be a justification for a killing. However, if the justification is unreasonable or mistaken, the killing may be charged as voluntary manslaughter. An unreasonable justification would be a self-defense killing where the defendant believed he was being attacked with deadly force, but it is clear upon further investigation that the victim did not attack with deadly force.

Voluntary manslaughter is a rather serious offense and is charged as a first-degree felony. First-degree felonies may be punished by a state prison sentence of up to 20 years. However, this is still much more lenient than a sentence for first-degree murder, which includes possibilities for life in prison or the death penalty.

Manslaughter as a Defense to Murder in Philadelphia

Many manslaughter defendants are usually initially charged with a more serious form of criminal homicide, often first- or second-degree murder. These charges may later be reduced due to strong evidence supporting the defendant or plea negotiations between the defendant and the prosecutor.

Manslaughter may even be used as a defense to murder. If prosecutors wish to charge you with murder, you could potentially argue it was manslaughter instead. To prove this, you need to show that there was provocation rather than intent to kill.

If we have strong evidence supporting manslaughter charges instead of murder charges, we can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce your charges in exchange for a plea bargain. This would allow you to plead guilty to lesser manslaughter charges instead of extremely severe murder charges. Contact our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers for help with your case.

How Can a Philadelphia Attorney Help Me with My Manslaughter Case?

Charges involving any form of criminal homicide should not be handled by an individual with no legal training. It can be tempting for defendants to dismiss their lawyers and insist on handling their case alone. After all, who will fight for you more vigorously than you? However, criminal trials, especially those for criminal homicide, are complicated and exhausting.

Not only is the law surrounding your charges complex and nuanced, but it is also incredibly emotionally charged. You may have to contend with the victim’s family, who wants nothing more than to see you put in prison. You will also have to deal with prosecutors actively working against you, mounting evidence, and witnesses who may not want to cooperate.

An attorney is trained to handle all this and more, and they can help you fight your manslaughter charges. Our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers have the skills and experience to fight your charges while protecting your rights. Call our team for help with your case today.

Call Our Philadelphia Manslaughter Defense Lawyers

If you are facing charges for manslaughter or another form of criminal homicide, call our Montgomery County criminal defense attorneys for assistance. We will represent you at every hearing and proceeding of your case. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 to set up a free legal consultation.