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California Penal Code § [Section] 192(a) – Voluntary Manslaughter

California Penal Code § [Section] 192(a) – Voluntary Manslaughter

California Penal Code [CPC] §192(a)Voluntary Manslaughter – Section 192(a) of the Penal Code makes it illegal to kill a human being without malice. This is known as Manslaughter. When the crime occurs “upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion” (or when the accused had an honest but incorrect belief that she or he had to kill in self-defense), it's punished as “Voluntary Manslaughter.”[1]

If you're convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter, you face a term of up to eleven years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Furthermore, Voluntary Manslaughter is punishable under California's “Three Strikes” system. If you receive three “strikes” on your record, you'll serve a minimum of twenty-five years in a state prison.

What Does California Penal Code §192(a) [Voluntary Manslaughter] Prohibit?

In sum, to be guilty of violating the Voluntary Manslaughter law under CPC §192(a), you must:

  • Be provoked; AND,
  • Act under the influence of intense emotion that obscures your reasoning; AND,
  • Be provoked in a way that would cause the average person to act from pure passion.

Defining “Voluntary Manslaughter” Under California Penal Code §192(a)

To convict you under CPC §192(a), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • PROVOKED: You were provoked;[2] AND,
  • ACTED RASHLY…:As a result of the provocation,[3] you acted rashly and under the influence of intense emotion that obscured your reasoning or judgment[4]; AND,
  • PROVOCATION WOULD HAVE CAUSED…: The provocation would have caused a person of average disposition to act rashly and without due deliberation (i.e., in the heat of passion[5]).

Note: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn't kill as the result of a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.

Example: Defendant Dom, suspecting that Wife is having an affair with Victim Victor, waits outside their home one night. Seeing Victor enter the house, he slips inside and catches Wife in Victor's arms. Dom, who brought a pistol to the encounter, shoots and kills Victor. Later, he claims that he “just saw red” and killed Victor “in the heat of passion.” Should Dom face charges under CPC §192(a), on these facts?

Conclusion: Dom believed that Wife was involved with Victor before he encountered them together. In fact, he waited to catch their infidelity. Most importantly, he brought a weapon to his confrontation with Victor. These are not the acts of someone who was provoked by a shocking surprise situation and responded “in the heat of passion.” Dom should be charged with Murder,[6] not Voluntary Manslaughter.

Penalties For Voluntary Manslaughter Under CPC §192(a)

If you're convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to eleven (11) years in a state prison;[7] AND,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars);[8] AND,
  • A “strike” on your permanent record.[9]

If you're convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter, you face a term of up to eleven (11) years in a state prison[10] and a fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars).[11] Furthermore, Voluntary Manslaughter is punishable under California's “Three Strikes” system.[12] If you receive three “strikes” on your record, you'll serve a minimum of twenty-five (25) years in state prison.[13]

Defenses Against California Penal Code §192(a) – Voluntary Manslaughter

Three common defenses against a charge of Voluntary Manslaughter under CPC §192(a) are:

You Were Defending Yourself Or Someone Else

Example: Defendant Deirdre goes to a club. While in line to get inside, the two people behind her - Victim Verne and Girlfriend – get into an argument that escalates into a violent altercation. As Verne is much larger than Girlfriend, Deidre comes to her aid. She pushes Verne off Deidre. He loses his balance, falls, strikes his head on a low wall and is killed. Should Deidre be convicted of his death under §192(a)? 

Conclusion: Deidre witnessed Verne using violence against a much smaller woman and only intervened to help Girlfriend defend herself. The facts provide no other reason for her to engage with Verne in any way. Since Deirdre used only the force necessary to push Verne off his Girlfriend, and didn't persist in using force after Verne fell, she should be acquitted. Deidre was defending someone else.

The Killing Was Accidental

Example: Defendant Derek goes on a hunting trip with Victim Vera. They quarrel at one point, with Derek insisting that Vera can't hunt without her safety gear. Witnesses see this. Vera separates from Derek and goes on her own. An hour later, Derek shoots her. He insists that he only did so because Vera was camouflaged in the forest without proper safety attire. Should Derek be convicted under §192(a)?

Conclusion: Witnesses only heard Derek quarreling with Vera an hour before her death. There's no reason to believe Derek was provoked into irrational action when he shot Vera. Nor do the facts state that Derek shot Vera while he was under the influence of any emotion. Thus, Derek's arguing with Vera – who did nothing protect herself while hunting - does not establish his guilt. The killing was accidental.  

You Were Insane At The Time Of The Killing

Example: Defendant Dylan killed Victim Vincent after getting into an intense quarrel with him. Dylan admits to murdering Vincent because Dylan believes Vincent has “eaten” his “mind” while Dylan slept, and that he can only reacquire it by killing Vincent and eating his gray matter. Dylan insists that he's entitled to the Insanity defense. Should Dylan be convicted of Vincent's death under CPC §192(a)?

Conclusion: The Insanity defense (also known as the M'Naghten Rule[14]) establishes that a person isn't guilty of a crime if he or she didn't understand the act was criminal or couldn't understand the nature of the act because of a mental defect at the time of the offense. Dylan, who was deluded, wasn't capable of seeing the wrong in his acts. Thus, he shouldn't be convicted. He was insane at the time of the killing.

Related Offenses

Note: The crimes below are described generally as “related” because they're frequently charged with CPC §192(a) and/or have common elements the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

California law includes several offenses related to Voluntary Manslaughter: Murder (CPC §187(a)), DUI Murder (“Watson Rule” Murder) (CPC §§ [Sections] 187, 189 (a),(b)), Attempted Murder (CPC §§187(a), 664(a)), Involuntary Manslaughter (CPC §192(b)),  Vehicular Manslaughter (CPC §192(c)), Assault (CPC §240), Assault with a Deadly Weapon (CPC §245(a)(1)), Battery (CPC §242), Battery Causing Great Bodily Injury (CPC §243d), Child Abuse (CPC §273d(a)), Child Endangerment (273a(a)), Corporal Injury on Spouse (CPC §273.5), and Domestic Battery (CPC §243(e)(1)).

Murder

Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought. Penal Code Section 187(a) applies to murders that are premeditated or specified in the criminal statutes.  The Section also applies to killings that occur during the commission of dangerous felonies via ‘the Felony-Murder Rule.'

If you're convicted of Murder, the penalty may be:

  • A life term in a state prison without the possibility of parole;[15] AND,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars).[16]

Murder is also punished under California's “Three Strikes” system.[17] If you get three “strikes” on your record, you'll serve a minimum of twenty-five years in prison.[18]

More information can be found in the Murder section of the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. That's our guarantee.

California Jury Instructions – Murder

To convict you under CPC §187(a), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You committed an act that caused the death of another person or a fetus or you had a legal duty to help, care for, rescue, warn, maintain the property of, or perform some other action for another person and failed to perform that duty, with that failure causing the death of another person or a fetus. When you acted or failed to act, you had a state of mind called malice aforethought. Finally, you killed without lawful excuse or justification.

Example: Defendant Dirk admits to shooting Victim Vic to death. He admits that he had no legal excuse for doing so, as Dirk was neither protecting himself nor another person from Vic at the time. He even admits that he took money to kill Vic. Now, facing a charge under CPC §187(a), Dirk insists he can't be convicted because he killed Vic for business reasons, not from personal malice. Should he be convicted?

Conclusion: Dirk willfully committed an act resulting in Vic's death. He admits he had no justification for it. These are elements of the crime. The only question is whether he had to have a personal grievance against Vic to develop “malice aforethought” – but this means only that Vic had to have premeditated killing Dirk, which we know he did because he took money for Vic's killing. Dirk should be convicted.

DUI Murder (“Watson Rule” Murder)

DUI Murder (CPC §§187(a), 189(a),(b)) is a form of second-degree murder originating with the People v. Watson[19] case. Watson held that a people with prior California DUI convictions can be charged with murder they subsequently kill another person while driving again under the influence. This is because the act of driving under such circumstances creates “implied” malice under California criminal law.[20]

If you're convicted of DUI Murder, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to fifteen (15) years in a state prison;[21] AND,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars).[22]

DUI Murder is also punished under California's “Three Strikes” system.[23] If you get three “strikes” on your record, you'll serve a minimum of twenty-five years in prison.[24]

More information can be found in the DUI section of the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. That is guaranteed.

California Jury Instructions – DUI Murder

To convict you under CPC §§187(a), 189 (a),(b)), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You committed an act that caused the death of another person or a fetus or you had a legal duty to help, care for, rescue, warn, maintain the property of, or perform some other action for another person and failed to perform that duty, with that failure causing the death of another person or a fetus. When you acted or failed to act, you had a state of mind called malice aforethought. Finally, you killed without lawful excuse or justification.

Example: Defendant Damian goes to a bar, gets drunk, and drives home. He has a conviction on his record for driving under the influence six months prior. Damian drives through multiple stop signs. He almost gets into an accident. He speeds. He eventually strikes a car and kills a family. Now facing DUI Murder charges, Damian says he can't be convicted because he didn't know the victims. Is he correct?

Conclusion: Damian, who would've been instructed on the dangers of driving under the influence in his DUI class, knowingly drove while drunk. He then ignored stop signs and sped. Damian even ignored a near-accident before striking the car and killing the family. These are elements of “implied malice” that show the state of mind required for prosecution for DUI Murder. Therefore, Damian is incorrect.

Attempted Murder

Attempted Murder (CPC §§187(a), 664(a)) occurs whenever anyone attempts to commit a murder but fails, is prevented, or is intercepted in its perpetration. To be guilty, you must take a direct step towards killing someone who does not die. Attempted Murder is prosecuted as a form of first-degree offense.

If you're convicted of Attempted Murder, the penalty may be:

  • A term of life in a state prison;[25] AND,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars).[26]

Attempted Murder is also punishable under California's “Three Strikes” system.[27] If you get three “strikes” on your record, you'll serve a minimum of twenty-five years in prison.[28]

More information can be found in the “Everything You Need To Know About California Attempted Murder” Blog on the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. That is our guarantee.

California Jury Instructions – Attempted Murder

To convict you under CPC §§187(a) and 664(a), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You took at least one direct but ineffective step toward killing another person or a fetus and you intended to kill that person or fetus.

Example: Defendant Denise admits that she tried to shoot Victim Veronica. She admits she was trying to kill Veronica. But Denise insists she can't be guilty of attempting a murder because she unwittingly shot only at Veronica's shadow against a window shade. Since Veronica was nowhere near the window, the bullet missed her completely. Is Denise correct or should she be convicted under §§187(a) and 664(a)?

Conclusion: Denise admits to taking a direct step towards killing Veronica (i.e., shooting a gun at her). The step was ineffective and Denise intended on killing Veronica. These are the elements of the charge.  Denise is trying to argue that it was factually impossible for her to kill Veronica under the circumstances. But factual impossibility[29] doesn't excuse an attempt at an actual crime. Therefore, Denise is incorrect.  

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary Manslaughter (CPC §192(b)) involves killing a human being or a fetus while committing an unlawful act not amounting to a felony or killing while committing a lawful act which might produce death and acting unlawfully or without due caution.

If you're convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to four (4) years in a state prison;[30] AND,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars).[31]

California Jury Instructions – Involuntary Manslaughter

To convict you under CPC §192(b), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You committed a crime or a lawful act in an unlawful manner. You also committed the crime or act with criminal negligence. Finally, your act caused the death of another person.

Example: Defendant Danny is drunk one night and takes his boat out for a spin. Several friends are with him. This includes Victim Vi. Danny drives the boat well over the harbor speed limit. He spins it around in circles, nearly capsizing it at one point. Finally, Vi is killed when he takes a sudden turn under a bridge.[32] Now Danny faces charges under §192(b) but says he can't be convicted on these facts. Is Danny guilty?

Conclusion: Danny committed a lawful act (boating) in an unlawful manner. (He was boating while under the influence, speeding, and boating recklessly.[33]) This demonstrates a level of negligence that becomes criminal as soon as it produces injury to a person or property. In this case, Vi was killed owing to Danny's behavior. These are the elements of the charge. Thus, Danny can be convicted of the crime. He is guilty.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular Manslaughter (CPC §192(c)) involves driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, with or without gross negligence or driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death and acting unlawfully with gross negligence. The Section also makes it illegal to cause a death while producing a vehicular collision or accident for financial gain.

If you're convicted of Vehicular Manslaughter, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to ten (10) years in a state prison;[34] AND,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars).[35]
California Jury Instructions – Vehicular Manslaughter

To convict you under CPC §192(c)(3), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You drove a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, with or without gross negligence, resulting in a death or you drove a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death and acted unlawfully with gross negligence, resulting in a death.

Example: Defendant Dimi is arguing with Victim Valerie while Dimi drives them. Valerie becomes so angry that she has a heart attack and dies before Dimi can get her to a hospital. Dimi has been charged with a violation of CPC §192(c). He swears that he had no intent to kill Valerie. Should he be convicted?

Conclusion: Dimi did nothing illegal while driving his car. Nor do the facts state that Valerie's death could've been produced by the way Dimi drove. The two facts – Dimi's driving and Valerie's death – are not causally related. His intent is irrelevant; he was charged with an offense that doesn't require malice. Therefore, Dimi is innocent of the charge.

Assault

California's Assault law (also known as "Simple Assault, CPC 240. applies whenever anyone willfully does anything that would result in applying force to another person while having facts that would make a reasonable person realize the act would result in applying force to someone else. To be convicted, you have to have the present ability to apply force and you can't have acted in self-defense or defense of another. The crime is related to Voluntary Manslaughter because acts constituting assaults can result in deaths punishable under Section 192(a).

If you're convicted of Assault, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to six (6) months in a county jail; OR,
  • A fine of up to $1,000 (one-thousand dollars); OR,
  • Both jail time and a fine.[36]

More information can be found in the Assault section of the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. It is our guarantee.

California Jury Instructions – Assault

To convict you under CPC §240, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You willfully did an act that by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to a person. When you acted, you were aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that the act would directly and probably result in the application of force to a particular person (or persons) and you had the present ability to apply force to another. Finally, you did not act in self-defense or in defense of someone else.

Example: Defendant Dee is playing softball at a park. She's about to throw a ball when Victim Vero walks into her path. Dee stops herself mid-toss and instead holds onto the ball. Vero thinks she did all this to upset him. Vero reports Dee to a nearby police officer and insists that she be charged for violating CPC §240. Should Dee face an assault charge?

Conclusion: Dee did not willfully cause Vero to believe that he was about to suffer the application of force against himself. She was about to throw the ball without knowing that Vero was present. Then, when she realized that Vero was before her, she stopped trying to throw. Thus, multiple elements of the charge are missing. If even one can't be proven in court, Dee should not be charged with the crime.

Assault With A Deadly Weapon

Assault With A Deadly Weapon (CPC §245(a)(1)) occurs in California whenever anyone assaults another person with a deadly weapon other than a firearm or when anyone assaults another person using force likely to produce great bodily injury. The crime is related to Voluntary Manslaughter because acts that would violate Section 245(a)(1) may also result in charges under Section 192(a) in the same trial.

The prosecution can charge you with a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case, making Assault With A Deadly Weapon a “wobbler”[37] crime. If you're convicted of Assault With A Deadly Weapon, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to four (4) years is state prison; OR,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars); OR,
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.[38]

You can find more information in the Assault With A Deadly Weapon section of the Kann California Defense Group's website. Feel free to contact the Kann Defense Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call will go directly to a lawyer. We always guarantee it.

California Criminal Jury Instructions – Assault With A Deadly Weapon

To convict you under CPC §245(a)(1),the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You assaulted someone with a deadly weapon other than a firearm or used force likely resulting in great bodily injury. You acted willfully and had facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize the act would result in using force. You also had the ability to use force likely to produce great bodily injury or assault someone and you weren't acting in self-defense or defense of another person.

Example: Defendant Deke admits to hitting Victim Viera over the head with a heavy club. He did this intentionally. He also says he knew that he was using great force against her and had the ability to produce great bodily injury. Nonetheless, Deke says he's innocent of a charge under §245(a)(1) because he was defending himself against Viera, who assaulted him first with a machete. Is Deke innocent?

Conclusion: Deke intentionally assaulted Viera with a deadly weapon other than a firearm. He knew he was using force. He had the ability and the desire to do so. These are elements of the charge. But Deke used force only to protect himself from Viera's own deadly assault. The facts do not suggest that Deke did more than he needed to, or for longer than necessary. Deke is innocent on Self-Defense grounds.[39] 

Battery

Battery (CPC §242) involves use of willful and unlawful force on another person. The crime is related to Voluntary Manslaughter because acts that would violate Section 242 may also result in charges under Section 192(a) in the same trial.

If you're convicted of Battery, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to six (6) months in a county jail; OR,
  • A fine of up to $2,000 (two-thousand dollars); OR,
  • Both jail time and a fine.[40]

You can find more information in the Battery section of the Kann California Defense Group's website. Feel free to contact the Kann Defense Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call will go directly to a lawyer. We always guarantee that.

California Criminal Jury Instructions – Battery

To convict you under CPC §242, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You willfully and unlawfully touched someone in a harmful or offensive manner. Additionally, you didn't act in self-defense or defense of someone else, or while reasonably disciplining a child.

Example: Defendant Dominic knows that Victim Vicca, his neighbor, loves her new sports car. He waits outside her house one morning. When she appears on the street in her car, Dominic leaps out and pelts the vehicle with lightly packed snowballs. While Dominic meant no harm, Vicca is furious. She has Dominic charged under CPC §242. Should Dominic be convicted under these circumstances?

Conclusion: Dominic willfully touched Vicca's car, which was something so close to her at the time that it could've been considered an extension of her body. He did this in a manner that Vicca found offensive. He wasn't defending himself and no children were involved. These are the elements of the crime. That Dominic meant no harm to Vicca is an irrelevant fact for purposes of CPC §242. He should be convicted.

Battery Causing Great Bodily Injury

California's statute forbidding Battery Causing Great Bodily Injury (CPC §243(d)) applies when anyone commits a battery resulting in serious injury. The crime is related to Voluntary Manslaughter because acts that would violate Section 243(d) may also generate charges under Section 192(a).

Since Battery Causing Great Bodily Injury can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case, CPC §243(d) is considered a “wobbler”[41] crime. If you're convicted of the felony form, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to four (4) years in a state prison;[42] OR,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars); OR,
  • Both imprisonment and a fine.[43]

More information can be found in the Battery Causing Great Bodily Injury section of the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. It's a guarantee.

California Jury Instructions – Battery Causing Great Bodily Injury

To convict you under CPC §243(d), the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You willfully and unlawfully touched someone in a harmful or offensive manner. That person suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the force you used. Finally, you did not act in self-defense or in defense of someone else or while reasonably disciplining a child.

Example: Defendant Dillan sees Victim Vinnie struggling to walk with an armful of books. Dillan takes the opportunity to stick out a foot and trip him. Vinnie falls, scuffs both elbows, and his books are damaged. Vinnie says Dillan violated CPC §243(d) because the combined damage to Vinnie's person and his books qualifies as serious. But Dillan insists that he can't be guilty as charged. Which one of them is correct?

Conclusion: Dillan willfully made contact with Vinnie in a way which was both harmful and offensive. He had no legal justification for doing so. These are elements of the crime. But Dillan didn't inflict such serious harm on Vinnie that he should be convicted under this Code Section. Furthermore, harm to property isn't prosecuted under CPC §243(d). Even though he's guilty of simple Battery, Dillan is correct.

Child Abuse

Child Abuse (CPC §273d(a)) law prohibits willfully inflicting cruel or inhuman physical punishment or any traumatic injury on a child. The crime is related to Voluntary Manslaughter because acts that would violate Section 273d(a) may also result in charges under Section 192(a) in the same trial.

Since you can be convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of your case, Section 273d(a) is a “wobbler”[44] crime: punishment “wobbles” between two degrees of severity. If you're convicted of the felony form, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to six (6) years in a state prison; OR,
  • A fine of up to $6,000 (six-thousand dollars); OR,
  • Both imprisonment and a fine.[45]

Note: If you're convicted of a violating CPC §273d(a) within ten years of a prior for conviction of the same offense, you will receive four additional years in state prison.

More information can be found in the Child Abuse section of the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. It's guaranteed.

California Jury Instructions – Child Abuse

To convict you under CPC §273d(a), the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You willfully inflicted cruel or inhuman punishment and/or injury on a child. The punishment and/or injury caused physical trauma. Finally, you had no legal excuse or justification.

Example: Defendant Dani admits that she denies sweets to Victim Vincente, her young son, when he misbehaves. She knows that Vincente's friends get to eat sweets no matter how they act. She knows that Vincente is upset by this punishment. Still, she insists she isn't guilty of inflicting illegal punishment on these facts, no matter what Vincente thinks. Should she be convicted of a charge under §273d(a)?

Conclusion: Dani willfully denied Vincente sweets and the denial upset him. These are the only facts approximating elements of the charge. Denying sweets to a child when the child behaves badly is quite an ordinary punishment, even if Vincente's friends aren't punished this way. It's justified by the need to discipline Vincente. Finally, the denial caused Vincente no physical trauma. Dani shouldn't be convicted.

Child Endangerment

Penal Code Section 273a(a) makes it illegal to permit any child to suffer unjustifiable pain or mental suffering under circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm or death. The statute applies whether or not you have custody of the child. The law additionally forbids permitting a child to be placed in a situation where the child's health is endangered. The crime is related to Voluntary Manslaughter because acts that would violate §273a(a) may also result in charges under §192(a) in the same trial.

Since you can be convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of your case, Section 273a(a) is a “wobbler”[46] crime: punishment “wobbles” between two degrees of severity. If you're convicted of the felony form, the penalty may be:

  • A term of up to six (6) years in state prison;[47] OR,
  • A fine of up to $10,000 (ten-thousand dollars); OR,
  • Both imprisonment and a fine.[48]

Child Endangerment is punishable under California's “Three Strikes” system.[49] If you receive three “strikes” on your record, you'll serve a minimum of twenty-five years in a state prison.[50]

More information can be found in the California Child Endangerment Attorney section of the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. That's always guaranteed.

California Jury Instructions – Child Endangerment

To convict you under CPC §273a(a), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You willfully inflicted pain on a child or you permitted a child to suffer or you had care or custody of a child and permitted the child to suffer or you permitted the child to be injured or you permitted the child to be somewhere dangerous. You hurt the child, permitted the child to suffer, or permitted the child's injury when it was likely to produce great bodily harm or death or you were criminally negligent. Finally, you weren't reasonably disciplining the child.

Example: Defendant Davis is training Victim Vern, his young son, in running. Vern is a very enthusiastic student. He insists on running with his father even in heat. Davis refuses to allow this. Yet, one day, Vern follows Davis on a run in the extreme heat. Vern gets severe heatstroke and must be hospitalized. Davis, who knew nothing of Vern's following him, faces charges under §273a(a). Should Davis be convicted?

Conclusion: Davis wasn't reasonably disciplining Vern at the time of Vern's injury. But this is the only fact that qualifies as an element of the offense. Davis did not run willfully with Vern on the day in question. He did not permit Vern to suffer. He didn't even know that Vern was running with him until Vern had come down with a case of severe heatstroke. Thus, Davis should not be convicted under CPC §273a(a).

Corporal Injury On A Spouse

Corporal Injury On A Spouse (CPC §273.5(a)) occurs when anyone willfully inflicts corporal injury on a victim, the injury was upon someone with whom the assailant had a domestic relationship, and, the corporal injury resulted in a traumatic condition. The crime is related to Voluntary Manslaughter because acts that would violate §273.5(a) may also result in charges under §192(a) in the same trial.

Since you can be convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of your case, Section 273.5(a) is a “wobbler”[51] crime: punishment “wobbles” between two degrees of severity. If you're convicted of the felony form, the penalty, without additional enhancement, may be:

  • A term of up to four (4) years in a state prison; OR,
  • A fine of up to $6,000 (six-thousand dollars); OR,
  • Both imprisonment and a fine.[52]

More information can be found in the California Corporal Injury Law section of the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. We always guarantee it.

California Jury Instructions – Corporal Injury On A Spouse

To convict you under CPC §273.5(a), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You willfully and unlawfully inflicted a physical injury on your spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, the mother or father of your child, or someone with whom you have, or previously had, an engagement or dating relationship. The injury resulted in a traumatic condition. Finally, you did not act in self-defense or in defense of someone else.

Example: Defendant Derrick is angry with Victim Vonn, his ex-wife. He takes to following her around town in order to upset her. He takes pictures of her walking around in public. He even walks the public streets outside her work. Vonn eventually becomes so unnerved that she reports Derrick for causing emotional injury to her. Now Derrick faces charges under CPC §273.5. Should Derrick be acquitted?

Conclusion: Derrick willfully took action which upset Vonn. He had no legal excuse for doing so. But these are the only facts approximating elements of the offense. Vonn did not suffer a physical injury, which is essential to the crime. Thus, the injury couldn't be sufficiently traumatic to qualify as punishable under the statute. It follows that Derrick should be acquitted.

Domestic Battery

Domestic Battery (CPC §243(e)(1)) involves willfully inflicting unlawful force or violence upon an intimate partner. That includes a homosexual or heterosexual person who is one of the following: your current or former spouse, your fiance or fiancee, a co-parent of your child, a person with whom you have or a had a dating relationship, or a person with whom you live. The crime is related to Voluntary Manslaughter because acts that would violate CPC §243(e)(1) may also result in charges under CPC §192(a) in the same trial.

If you're convicted of Domestic Battery, the penalty may be:

  • Up to one year in county jail; OR,
  • A fine of up to $2,000 (two-thousand dollars).[53]

More information can be found in the California Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Law section of the Kann California Law Group's website. If you have questions, contact any of the Kann California Law Group offices in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County. Your call goes directly to a lawyer. We always guarantee it.

California Jury Instructions – Domestic Battery

To convict you under CPC §243(e)(1), the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

You willfully and unlawfully touched a person in a harmful or offensive manner. The complainant is your spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, fiancé[e], or a person with whom you currently have, or previously had, a dating or engagement relationship, or the mother or father of your child. Finally, you did not act in self-defense or in defense of someone else.

Example: Defendant Donnie gets into an argument with Victim Viktor, his roommate. He strikes Viktor. Viktor reports him for a violation of CPC §243(e)(1). Donnie says that he can't be guilty of an act of domestic battery against someone who was merely his roommate. Is Donnie correct?

Conclusion: Donnie willfully touched Viktor in a harmful and offensive manner. He didn't do this with a legal justification for his act. These are elements of the crime. The only remaining question is whether domestic battery can occur between two persons who live together without being intimately involved. The statute prohibits violence against “cohabitants” as well as lovers. Therefore, Donnie is incorrect.

What Can I Do If I'm Charged With Voluntary Manslaughter?

The State of California treats Voluntary Manslaughter as an exceptionally serious offense. If you're charged with Voluntary Manslaughter, it's essential that you retain a skilled, dedicated criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your rights, freedom, and livelihood are at stake.

Remember, a professional criminal defense attorney may be able to:

  • Negotiate a lesser charge in a plea bargain;
  • Reduce your sentence;
  • Or even get charges dismissed completely.

The attorneys at the Kann California Law Group have an excellent understanding of the local courts and an extensive knowledge of California's criminal justice system. We can represent you in Ventura, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, Encino, Pasadena and many other Southern California cities. 

If you or someone you know has been arrested for, or charged with, Voluntary Manslaughter, our attorneys will analyze the facts of your case and plan a strategy that will help you obtain the best possible outcome.

Contact the Kann California Law Group today to schedule your free and confidential consultation.  

References

[1] See California Penal Code [CPC] §192 (a).

[2] The jury must decide whether the provocation was sufficient, considering “whether a person of average disposition, in the same situation and knowing the same facts, would have reacted from passion rather than from judgment.” See California Criminal Jury Instructions 570 (CALCRIM) (2022).

[3] “In order for heat of passion to reduce a murder to voluntary manslaughter, the defendant must have acted under the direct and immediate influence of provocation […]. While no specific type of provocation is required, slight or remote provocation is not sufficient. Sufficient provocation may occur over a short or long period of time.” See California Criminal Jury Instructions 570 (CALCRIM) (2022).

[4] “If enough time passed between the provocation and the killing for a person of average disposition to ‘cool off' and regain his or her clear reasoning and judgment, then the killing is not reduced to voluntary manslaughter on this basis.” See California Criminal Jury Instructions 570 (CALCRIM) (2022).

[5] “Heat of passion does not require anger, rage, or any specific emotion. It can be any violent or intense emotion that causes a person to act without due deliberation and reflection.” See California Criminal Jury Instructions 570 (CALCRIM) (2022).

[6] See CPC §187 (a).

[7] See CPC §193 (a).  

[8] See CPC §672.

[9] See CPC §1192.7 (c) (1). 

[10] See Endnote 7.

[11] See Endnote 8.

[12] See Endnote 9.

[13] See CPC §667 (e) (2) (A) (ii).

[14] See California Criminal Jury Instructions 3450 (CALCRIM) (2022).

[15] See CPC §190 (a).

[16] See Endnote 8.

[17] See Endnote 9.

[18] See Endnote 13.

[19] See People v. Watson, 30 Cal.3d 290 (1981) at SCOCAL (Supreme Court Of California Resources).

[20]  See CPC §188 (a) (2).

[21] See Endnote 15.

[22] See Endnote 8.

[23] See CPC §667.5 (c) (1) .

[24] See Endnote 13.

[25] See CPC §664 (a).

[26] See Endnote 8.

[27] See CPC §667.5 (c) (7).

[28] See Endnote 13.

[29] See “Factual Impossibility Law and Legal Definition” at USLegal.com.

[30] See CPC §193 (b).

[31] See Endnote 8.

[32] Fact pattern based on the Jan. 24, 2019 boating accident in Beaufort, South Carolina, which began the unraveling of the powerful Murdaugh family's legal and financial dynasties. See “Video shows riders seats before Paul Murdaugh boat collision,” YouTube.com, User: ‘Island Packet,' Aug. 24, 2021.

[33] For this fact pattern, it's unnecessary to consider whether boating at night is also illegal.

[34] See CPC §193 (c) (3).

[35] See Endnote 8.

[36] See CPC §19.

[37] See “Wobbler Law and Legal Definition” at USLegal.com.    

[38] See CPC §245 (a) (1).

[39] See “Self Defense and Defense of Another,” CALCRIM 3470 (CALCRIM) (2022).

[40] See CPC §243 (a).

[41] See Endnote 37.

[42] See CPC §243 (d).

[43] See Endnote 8.

[44] See Endnote 37.

[45] See CPC §273d (a).

[46] See Endnote 37.

[47] See CPC §273a (a).

[48] See Endnote 8.

[49] For example, see CPC §1192.7 (c) (6).

[50] See Endnote 13.

[51] See Endnote 37.

[52] See CPC §273d (a).

[53] See CPC §243 (e) (1).

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