Facing a charge of voluntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania can be frightening. If you or someone you care about is facing voluntary manslaughter charges, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law. If you are convicted of this offense, a voluntary manslaughter sentence can result in years of imprisonment. Strongly defending against the charges against you or your loved one with a skilled homicide lawyer’s help might lead to a more favorable resolution.
What is voluntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania?
Voluntary manslaughter is a type of homicide crime that is defined under 18 Pa. C.S. 2503. Under this statute, you can face serious penalties. Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing that occurs as a result of an intense passion, provocation by the victim or someone else, or under an unreasonable belief that the killing is justified. For example, if you are provoked by someone else and try to kill that person but accidentally kill the victim instead, you can be charged with voluntary manslaughter. You can also be charged with voluntary manslaughter if the victim provoked you and you reacted with too much force, causing his or her death.
Voluntary manslaughter is different than involuntary manslaughter. While both offenses lack an element of specific intent, involuntary manslaughter happens when someone is killed because of gross negligence or recklessness. By contrast, voluntary manslaughter typically involves a situation in which someone is killed during the heat of the moment. Voluntary manslaughter lacks premeditation and typically happens during an argument or under the heat of passion. A person who commits involuntary manslaughter is someone who had no intent to kill someone but caused another person’s death because of his recklessness.
Understanding heat of passion
The definition of a heat of passion will depend on the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death. In general, a defendant may be under the heat of passion when he or she is provoked to such an extent that he or she feels extreme rage and loses his or her capacity to control his or her actions. This means that the situation is one in which a reasonable person under the same circumstances might be provoked to react similarly. There cannot have been any chance for the defendant to cool off between the time of the provocation and the death. For example, if you discovered your spouse in bed with someone else, killing your spouse immediately would likely be considered to be under the heat of passion. If you instead left your house and came back later to kill your spouse, that would not qualify as being under the heat of passion since you had the opportunity to regain self-control.
When there is sufficient provocation, a murder offense might be reduced to voluntary manslaughter. This occurs when a killing happened because of your natural weaknesses. While the degree of provocation necessary for a homicide to qualify as voluntary manslaughter might vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the test that is normally used is reasonableness. Since all cases are different, the facts will determine whether voluntary manslaughter or a different homicide offense is charged.
Voluntary manslaughter under a mistaken belief that the killing is justified
You can be charged with voluntary manslaughter when you kill someone under a mistaken belief that your actions are justified. This might happen when you kill someone because you wrongly think that deadly force is necessary. For example, if you are involved in an argument and the other person pulls something out of his or her pocket, leading you to shoot him or her, you may be charged with voluntary manslaughter if the object the person retrieved was a phone and not a weapon. By contrast, if you react in a proportional way to the danger with which you are presented, the killing might be considered to be justified. For example, if the other person pulled out a gun and pointed it at you, shooting him or her might be considered to be a reasonable and proportional reaction.
What can be expected in a voluntary manslaughter sentence?
In Pennsylvania, voluntary manslaughter is a serious offense that carries the potential for a long prison sentence. It is a first-degree felony. If you are convicted of this offense, you can be sentenced to serve up to 20 years in prison. If you have two previous convictions for violent crimes, the judge must sentence you to a minimum of 25 years. The sentence can be increased to life in prison with no chance of parole if you are deemed to be a public safety threat.