If you are accused of unintentionally killing another person in California, you will face charges of violating PEN 192b. The offense, in this case, is known as involuntary manslaughter. According to this statute, you either committed the felony while committing another crime or were doing something legally acceptable, but it resulted in another's unintended death. Besides the hefty fines and jail sentence you may face if convicted of the crime, your life is adversely affected.
At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have years of experience in criminal law and have defended many people charged with this offense to a favorable outcome. When faced with these allegations, don't gamble with your life but instead seek a professional defense attorney to offer you the best defense possible.
Defining Involuntary Manslaughter According to PEN 192b
The primary aspect of involuntary manslaughter in California is that it doesn't need you to intend to kill the person found in murder PEN 187 that requires you to have planned the crime. Similarly, if you unintentionally killed a person following a car accident, you will not face these charges. Instead, you will be prosecuted under the vehicular manslaughter laws in California.
One of the well known involuntary manslaughter cases in California is that involving the late Michael Jackson and his doctor. The doctor was found guilty of violating PEN 192b because he prescribed the pop star anesthetic drug that caused his death. Dr. Murray was punished with four years of imprisonment for the offense, which is the maximum sentence.
Many instances would lead to an involuntary manslaughter charge. Examples of these include:
- When a person steals a bike outside a store and rides it fast to avoid getting caught, this is a misdemeanor offense, petty theft, according to PEN 484. In the process, they knock down a pedestrian, causing their eventual death due to the injuries. Because the death was not planned and the person was committing another offense, they will be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
- During a disagreement with a business partner, you take your gun and wave it towards him threateningly. This is already an offense under PEN 417 for brandishing a gun in California. As you do this, the firearm accidentally fires and kills your business partner. In such a case, you will face two charges for brandishing a weapon and involuntary manslaughter.
- Another example would be if you own a farm, and when the temperatures are very high, the product is also ready for harvesting. You insist on the workers picking the product despite the heat because you fear they will get damaged. Unfortunately, the heat is too much, causing one of the workers to collapse and die of heatstroke. Although whatever you were doing was within the law, an unintended death resulted. In this case, you will face involuntary murder charges in California.
Involuntary manslaughter is best defined legally using its elements that a prosecutor must prove to get a conviction. Without proving these facts, the court cannot find you guilty of the offense. Your lawyer typically works to challenge these elements and provide other defenses to get you acquitted of the crime or receive a more favorable sentence.
The elements a prosecutor must determine to get you convicted of this offense are:
- That you committed a misdemeanor or an infraction or a lawful deed carried out unlawfully, and in the process of your actions, an unintended death resulted.
- As you carried out the crime or deed, you were criminally negligent.
- And because of your actions, a person died.
While understanding the statute, it is crucial to understand various phrases or terms used in its definition. Some of these include:
Carrying out a Lawful Deed in an Illegal Way
You can only be charged with involuntary manslaughter if it occurs while you were doing something wrong. This means an accident that results in death involuntarily is not considered under this statute. When you perform a wrongful deed, it can either be:
- An infraction. This is a low-level offense where you get punished with a fine only and no jail time. For instance, a traffic rule violation or getting charged with disturbing the peace, according to PEN 415 are infraction offenses.
- A misdemeanor offense according to the laws of California
- A felony in California which is not perceived dangerous or
- Doing something not criminal but in an unlawful manner.
It is vital to distinguish that if you cause a death while carrying out a felony considered dangerous, it is not involuntary manslaughter but a murder in California.
For instance, you are a religious leader that believes in faith healing and not modern medicine. You claim to heal people by faith, but you hold no license to practice medicine or education. One of your followers comes to you to seek treatment for leukemia. You perform regular activities like massaging him, which you claim will cure his cancer. Unfortunately, the massage causes the patient to bleed more internally, resulting in his death.
In this case, you were committing a felony of practicing medicine without authorization and killed a person. This offense is not necessarily dangerous or violent but will result in you facing involuntary manslaughter charges under PEN 192b.
Proving that your actions were criminally negligent is another requirement a prosecutor must meet to get you convicted of involuntary manslaughter. In this case, it doesn't matter whether the charges against you are based on your unlawful act or crime, but negligence must be proven.
When you are said to have acted with criminal negligence, your actions exceeded standard carelessness, judgment, or inattention. This type of negligence happens only when:
- You act recklessly creating a significant risk of fatality or bodily injuries and
- An ordinary person knows that such behavior would be risky in this manner.
For instance, you leave your two children unattended and go to the grocery store, hoping that you will be back by the time they wake up. Unfortunately, while at the store, a fire starts and kills them in their sleep. You never acted in criminal negligence, and therefore you are innocent of involuntary manslaughter. The probability of a blaze resulting was unlikely, and you could not foresee your children's death because of your actions.
Causing Death to another Person
Your actions are said to have resulted in another person's death if they died because of a direct, possible, and natural repercussion of your efforts, and they wouldn't have died otherwise. This means, if you were reasonable, you might have realized death would happen as a consequence.
Involuntary Manslaughter Because of a Legal Duty
You can also face involuntary manslaughter charges if you failed to carry out a legal duty. However, the definition of this offense is different based on the following elements a prosecutor must determine:
- You an obligation to deceased legally
- You failed in performing the legal obligation
- Your failure amounted to criminal negligence and
- The failure in your obligation resulted in the death of the person
However, the issue of a legal obligation or duty to another person is determined by the judge when faced with involuntary manslaughter charges. Some examples that accord you a legal obligation are relationships between:
- A parent and a child
- A paid caregiver and the person they care for
- Two persons where one assumes responsibility for the other
For instance, you meet Lucy in a pub one night, and you take her home with you. You know Lucy is drunk, and she tells you she needs to inject heroin into your bathroom. After she does, she loses consciousness, and you drag her outside your house instead of calling for help. You leave her there and find her dead when you wake up.
Because you brought Lucy to your house knowing she was intoxicated and further allowed her to use heroin in your house, you generated a legal obligation to her or duty. Further, your failure to look for medical assistance for her when she became unconscious makes you guilty of violating PEN 192b, involuntary manslaughter.
Penalties for PEN 192b – Involuntary Manslaughter
When accused of involuntary manslaughter, you will face felony charges in California. Upon conviction, you are likely to face the following penalties:
- Formal or felony probation
- Two, three or four years of state imprisonment and
- $10,000 in fines or less
Aside from the criminal proceedings you face, the victim's family can institute a civil hearing against you. The family will ask the court for punitive damages or damages for their loved one's wrongful death. Additionally, if the offense happened with the use of a dangerous weapon and your guilty verdict, you earn a strike according to the three-strikes law.
Legal Defenses for Involuntary Manslaughter
When a person dies suspiciously, the police and prosecutors will want to know the cause and punish the party responsible for the death. As the pressure and need to find the person responsible is high, the likelihood of rushed investigations and wrong conclusions occurs. This will often leave innocent persons to face these charges and present their defenses.
You cannot assume the charges will not impact you, or there is insufficient evidence to convict you. Instead, engage an experienced criminal attorney to formulate strategies in your defense. Some of the defenses your attorney will use include:
Self-defense or that of Others
Your lawyer can argue that you were defending yourself or others against potential danger when the death occurred. However, this defense is only valid if the below aspects of the offense are factual:
- You had a good reason to believe you or another person was facing danger or was at risk of getting killed, sustaining significant injuries or robbed, maimed or raped.
- You believed that you needed to use deadly force to defend yourself or others against the imminent danger and
- The force you used was necessary to avoid the danger posed.
If your lawyer can prove these elements, you will be innocent of involuntary manslaughter based on California law.
For instance, you are facing involuntary manslaughter charges for causing the death of your friend Chris. You and Chris had disagreed and argued outside a bar. Chris pushes you, and you resist by pushing back. Suddenly, Chris pulls out a knife and lunges towards you. Fortunately, you manage to wrestle the knife from him, but Chris gets stabbed in the process. The injuries Chris sustains later kill him, and charges of involuntary manslaughter are preferred against you.
If this is what happened, you can avoid a conviction on this offense by arguing you were defending yourself against Chris's potential danger. Following a successful argument, the charges against you will get dropped instead.
Almost all involuntary manslaughter cases are accidental because they involve incidences where a defendant had not planned to cause death to the victim. However, if you were not involved in doing anything wrong or were not criminally negligent, your lawyer can argue that death was accidental. For this defense to apply, your lawyer must show that:
- Your actions didn't have a criminal intention of causing harm
- You were not criminally negligent in your actions to result in the accidental death and
- The activities you were engaged in were lawful when the unfortunate accident happened
Your lawyer can present this defense with sufficient supporting evidence to absorb you from blame.
For any criminal conviction to happen, the case must leave no doubt in the jury's mind or judgment. In some cases, the police are in a rush to close a case and fail to find substantial evidence supporting the offense. As a result, the prosecutor is presented with a case not well investigated and without substantial evidence. Unfortunately, the prosecutor proceeds to prosecute the case and finds themselves in court without sufficient evidence.
The hurried investigations and rushed conclusions make it even more critical to engage an experienced criminal attorney to represent you. Your lawyer will investigate the allegations because they must give you the best representation and interview potential witnesses to the offense. Additionally, they will analyze the evidence from the prosecution and engage forensic scientists to unveil the crime's truth.
When your lawyer uncovers the truth about circumstances leading to the offense, you will likely get charged with a lesser offense or drop the charges.
False Allegations or Wrongful Arrest
False allegations often lead to wrongful arrests. You can be falsely accused of involuntary manslaughter by a friend, family member, or another person. The reasons for false allegations vary with some wanting to seek revenge against you or cover their part in the offense.
An experienced attorney in homicide understands what is at stake and the importance of having all the technical details to the crime right. An attorney can apply their skills in unearthing the falsehoods behind your case and get you acquitted for the offense.
Sometimes mistakes do happen in identifying the perpetrator of a crime. When a witness mistakenly identifies you as the person that caused the victim's death, it does not have to be out of malice. Going back to an earlier example, the person who stole a bicycle and ran away, knocking down a pedestrian, killing them may have dressed like you. Unknown to you, you are walking towards the crime scene wearing similar clothes as the perpetrator. In this case, it is easy for a witness to identify you as the perpetrator of the offense.
If you are mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of the offense, your lawyer can use this argument by presenting an alibi. Proof that you were at a different location as the crime took place is sufficient to get you acquitted of the charges against you.
Other Consequences of Violating PEN 192b – Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is a felony offense that carries severe penalties, as discussed earlier. However, there are other consequences to a felony conviction aside from the legal repercussions. The cause of death is never intentional or planned. However, you are likely to face challenges each day because of a conviction that you served time for. Some of the unfortunate consequences include:
Losing your professional license
– A conviction on felony charges can end your career, especially when you required a professional license to practice. Although you will be entitled to an administrative hearing, in most cases, your license is revoked, especially if the offense was inclined to your profession.
– As long as you are serving a felony jail sentence, you lose your right to vote. However, after getting released, your right to vote is reinstated, but you must register as a voter again.
– Even when the offense was not intentional, a conviction will have you lose your rights to a firearm. Convicted felons in California are not permitted to own or use firearms.
Challenges with college admission
– If you were hoping to further your studies, many colleges look into your background before admission. With a criminal conviction, you are likely to miss admission to the college of your choice.
– Most potential landlords look into your background before agreeing that you become their tenant. In most cases, a criminal background will deny you a chance to rent property because the landlord may feel they cannot trust you.
– Most convicted felons find it challenging to secure employment because of their criminal history. Potential employers will not want to know the reasons behind their conviction, but you may not be given a job opportunity as long as you have a past.
Although you are likely to face these and other repercussions because of your crime, you can have your record expunged and eliminate some of these consequences. After successfully completing your sentence, your lawyer can petition the court to delete your record from the public. If your petition is successful, potential employers or landlords will not access the information. This means that you can enjoy similar opportunities as persons without a criminal background.
Related Offenses to Involuntary Manslaughter
When an offense is related to another, you can face prosecution of the other offense alongside the one you are charged with or instead of it. Some of the crimes closely related to involuntary manslaughter include:
Murder – PEN 187
The distinction between murder and involuntary manslaughter is that in murder, the perpetrator of the offense pre-conceived it or had malice aforethought. If at the same time, you accidentally kill a person when carrying out a dangerous felony, you will not be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Instead, you face murder charges according to the felony-murder rule.
For instance, you and your colleagues decide to rob a store. You have guns with you to scare the customers or workers into giving you money. While at the store, you shoot at the wall to scare the store clerk, but instead, the bullet hits one of your colleagues, killing him. Although the death was unintended and accidental, you were committing a serious felony in the process. The charges against you will be for murder and not involuntary manslaughter.
Voluntary Manslaughter – PEN 192a
If you were passionately arguing with a person and in the height of emotions you kill them, this is voluntary manslaughter. According to its name, the killing is intentional, although less harshly punished compared to murder. Voluntary manslaughter is also punished harsher than involuntary manslaughter.
Involuntary manslaughter can be used as a plea bargain in a voluntary manslaughter case. A person accused of voluntary manslaughter can get their charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter, hence reducing their sentence.
Involuntary Vehicular Manslaughter – PEN 192c
This offense is almost the same as involuntary manslaughter; only that to commit the offense requires a vehicle, or you violate a traffic rule resulting in a fatal accident. If you involuntarily kill a person as you drive through an accident, the maximum jail sentence is four years.
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
Suppose you are faced with involuntary manslaughter allegations in San Jose or the surrounding areas. In that case, we at California Criminal Lawyer Group are committed to offering you the best defense against the allegations. Our lawyers have years of experience in criminal law and have worked with many defendants to achieve favorable results. For consultation and understanding of your case, reach our offices at 408-622-0204.