Voluntary manslaughter is a serious felony charge in North Carolina. While it is not as serious as a murder charge, it has a longer potential sentence than a charge for involuntary manslaughter. A person who is charged with voluntary manslaughter may try to argue that their actions were either involuntary or justified by self-defense.
Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person intentionally kills another person. Unlike murder, voluntary manslaughter is not something that was premeditated. It is typically a “heat of passion” incident in which a person reacts violently and out of character after they are provoked. The person may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol or experiencing a lot of emotional distress before they committed the violent act.
Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, involves an accidental killing of another person by recklessness or negligence. An involuntary manslaughter crime would not necessarily be committed during a heated exchange. A person may accidentally kill someone by causing a car accident, mishandling a gun or accidentally giving someone the wrong medication.
A criminal defense lawyer who is representing a person charged with voluntary manslaughter may attempt to have the charge dismissed or reduced to involuntary manslaughter. If the defendant can prove that they acted in self-defense while their life was being threatened, the judge may find that they did not commit a crime. However, the defendant will have to prove that they didn’t use excessive force after the threat to their life was eliminated.
If the defendant cannot prove that they acted in self-defense, they may still be able to prove that they did not intend to kill. Voluntary manslaughter may be reduced to involuntary manslaughter, which has a lesser potential prison sentence.