Manslaughter is the crime of killing someone without malice or intent, elements required for a charge of murder. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony. Those charged face the possibility of fines as well as two to 20 years in state prison. As such, it is important to speak to a criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with manslaughter.
For prosecutors to obtain a manslaughter conviction, they must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant recklessly caused the death of a human being. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” means that all evidence is fully satisfied, all facts are proven and guilt is established. Defending a person against manslaughter charges generally hinges of creating reasonable doubt of evidence and guilt, or through an affirmative defense like the ones listed below.
What Defenses Are Available for Manslaughter Charges?
- Self-defense. This defense may seem simple conceptually, but can vary dramatically case-by-case. In considering a self-defense argument, the courts will ask: was the threat imminent? Was there a reasonable fear of harm? And was the defendant’s use of self-defense proportional, or was it excessive?
- Crime of passion. This means that the defendant was agitated in such a way, such as anger or fear, that leads to the person’s inability to control his or her actions. While a crime of passion defense may not be enough to have charged dismissed, it can lead to lesser penalties.
- The insanity defense. Legal insanity is different from the generally understood meaning of insanity. Legal insanity means that the defendant did not understand what he or she was doing, did not understand right from wrong, acted on an uncontrollable impulse or some combination of these elements. Insanity is an affirmative defense, meaning that the defendant is admitting guilt, but that the circumstances of the case provide justification for the action that transpired.
- Not guilty. The prosecution has not found sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant was the cause of another person’s death.
The Goolsby Law Firm serves clients charged with crimes throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.