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In Los Angeles, involuntary manslaughter is a serious criminal charge that can result in a sentence of up to four years in prison. While this crime carries a lighter punishment than charges like first or second degree murder, an involuntary manslaughter conviction can ruin your future.
This crime is much easier to prosecute than other murder charges simply because the prosecutor does not have to prove that you had the intent to kill someone or planned the crime in any way. This charge is sometimes referred to as “criminally negligent homicide” because the person accused of the crime has not intended to kill the alleged victim.
California criminal law defines involuntary manslaughter as killing someone unintentionally either while committing another non-felony crime or while acting recklessly or negligently as described in California Penal Code Section 192(b). This law says you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you are committing a misdemeanor and accidentally kill someone in the process. You can also be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you are doing something legal but are acting with extreme recklessness or gross criminal negligence.
The prosecution will have to prove three things in order to convict you of involuntary manslaughter:
1. Someone died as a result of something you did.
2. What you did was dangerous or reckless, even if what you did was not a crime.
3. You were aware that your actions could have put the person’s life in danger.
The main problem with involuntary manslaughter is that things usually happen very quickly in the moment. For example, maybe you looked at your cell phone will driving. While you were glancing at an incoming text, you accidentally hit a car. If the person driving the other car dies, you could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
You probably didn’t have time to think any of this through. You might not have been aware that glancing at your phone for a second would put anyone’s life in danger. During the time this was happening, you probably were not making a conscious choice to act recklessly. You’ve probably glanced at your phone a million times before and nothing like this ever happened. The only difference between then and now is that someone died this time. Now, the prosecution can try to argue that you are guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
As soon as an accident like this happens, it is of the utmost importance to contact a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in defending people who have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Before you say one word to police or anyone else, you need to be informed of your legal rights. In these cases, what you say early on can hurt you. The prosecutor will need proof, and you don’t want to unintentionally supply evidence to police.
Using the example of texting and driving, the prosecutor will have to prove that you were glancing at your cell phone and that was why you hit the other car. The prosecutor might have a tough time proving this without evidence. If you tell police you were texting and driving, then you are helping to supply them with evidence.
In the best case scenario, your criminal defense lawyer will need to be able to argue that you are not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Common defenses include that it was an accident, that prosecutors don’t have sufficient evidence to prove their case, or that you were acting in self-defense.
If you need to hire a Los Angeles involuntary manslaughter defense lawyer, our firm can advise you of your legal rights and help to get the charges dismissed, talk the prosecution into a lesser charge that will keep you from having a criminal conviction, or defend you at trial if you choose to fight the charges in court.