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How are involuntary and voluntary manslaughter defined?

If you are being charged for the accidental or unplanned death of someone, it is important to understand the charges you are facing. In New York, you might be charged with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, depending on the nature of the fatality.

As FindLaw explains, manslaughter pertains to the unlawful killing of another person without malice, meaning you did not plan the death of that person ahead of time. Involuntary manslaughter involves the fatality of someone during an either lawful act or an unlawful act without being a felony, that resulted in the death due to negligent or reckless actions. For example, you and your friends might have been drag racing on a deserted street late at night, and one car crashed, killing a passenger. Nobody planned for the friend to die, but everyone’s reckless actions could qualify as contributing to involuntary manslaughter.

On the other hand, voluntary manslaughter results from an intentional act of anger, or the “heat of passion,” in which an attack was intentional but not planned out. A man who immediately strikes out with a weapon at another man at a bar who insulted the first man’s sister could be charged with voluntary manslaughter. As you can see, the fatality resulted from an intentional violent act, despite the person not necessarily meaning to kill the other.

Any criminal charge resulting from a person’s death, whether voluntary or not, should be considered serious. Therefore, this post is not meant as legal advice and should not be substituted for experienced counsel.

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