Similarly, voluntary manslaughter may be charged when an individual accused of the death of another took place when the offender did in fact intentionally choose to harm the victim, however the perpetrator of the act had no original or "prior intention" of causing the death up until the point when the slaying actually occurred.
Additionally if it can be proven that the death occurred as the result of an accident, a charge can be reduced to involuntary manslaughter.
Provocation and State of Mind
In the state of Florida, a voluntary manslaughter charge can be brought forward by the prosecution when a homicide doesn't fit a murder charge's legal description; instead showing that the homicide, although intentional was committed during the core of an act of provocation or possibly during a moment when a "heat of passion" scenario existed.
To exemplify this type of circumstance, take into consideration an incident of a confrontation between two people that escalates into a shoving match. John who has a definitive physical advantage over Bob becomes enraged and although Bob initiated the fight, John loses his temper (a cause of a normally reasonable person to lose control) and strikes Bob's head into a concrete sidewalk until the results of those actions lead to the death of his antagonist. If during the struggle, the alleged offender stated that he was going to kill the victim just before a lethal blow is struck, in front of one or more creditable, unbiased witnesses, once law enforcement becomes involved an arrest will take place and a prosecutor will have strong ammunition to bring forward a charge of voluntary manslaughter. Even if there are no witnesses present, law enforcement may still place the alleged offender under arrest and the state may choose to prosecute.
Although there was no intention of killing the victim when the altercation began, in a brief moment during its escalation, a passion to do him harm arose, and ultimately caused his death.
Passage of Time
Another important factor contributing to a voluntary manslaughter charge is the amount of time between the provocation of an event such as the altercation referenced above and the time when the victim is actually killed. If the fight ended without any casualty and a cooling off period occurred, and then the central character returned and killed the victim, voluntary manslaughter may no longer apply and a charge of second-degree murder could be applicable.
However in the same situation as explained above if Bob displayed a gun or knife and it was only a spontaneous reaction by John to initiate the striking of the victim's head into the ground, most likely voluntary manslaughter would not be charged.
In a case such as this one, a knowledgeable defense attorney will try to impeach testimony of witnesses, possibly by demonstrating that there is a relationship between the victim and the testifying witness that may have caused them to make a biased statement or possibly even lied concerning the true nature of what actually happened during or after the period in question.
Proving reasonable or adequate provocation by the victim can also weigh heavily with a jury if the case goes to trial and conceivably have the charge reduced or thrown out completely. If it can be further proved that the life was not taken with any intent or depraved indifference for human life sentencing can be greatly affected. A verdict of not guilty is a strong possibility if a defendant can demonstrate that they were in fear for their life.
In the State of Florida a person has the right to defend themselves if another individual is attempting to commit a felony on them, a friend or a family member within the confines of their home. An individual also has the right to use deadly force if another person is attempting to cause them bodily harm or appears to be trying to kill them inside as well as outside of their home. These instances of self-defense are reasons for what's known as justifiable or excusable homicide.
While a conviction for manslaughter in Florida is considered a second degree felony the state considers a conviction for aggravated manslaughter a felony in the first degree. A second degree felony of this type is punishable with a sentence of up to fifteen years with monetary fines up to ten thousand dollars. However, if it is determined that the killing was a case of aggravated manslaughter, the term of incarceration can inflate to a term of up to thirty years in prison. Additionally, the punishment could be advanced to a lifetime sentence if a firearm is used.
The reasons that a finding of aggravated manslaughter would be determined usually involves the killing of a child or an elderly person, a disabled adult as well as a any emergency service workers and officers such as an EMT, paramedic or firefighter. It also may be found if the circumstance of the death was committed in a method that was specifically brutal, heinous, or displayed unusual cruelty.
For the State of Florida to prove an allegation of voluntary manslaughter the prosecution must substantiate that the death of the victim by the accused was caused intentionally without malice yet in the heat of passion, or the accused caused the victim to commit an act that led to their own death (this is known as procurement), in addition to demonstrating that the victim for who the defendant is accused of killing is in fact deceased. The prosecution does not need to prove premeditation.
Mitigating circumstances can also influence a judge's decision for penalties during the sentencing phase of a trial if they believe the convicted individual acted under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance, diminished mental capacity the defendant's acceptance of responsibility for the crime (remorse), absence of prior criminal activity or history as well as other variables. A strong, knowledgeable, experienced criminal defense attorney, who understands the abovementioned mitigating factors as well as laws of mitigation during the sentencing phase of a trial under the state's sentencing guidelines, is crucial. Just as a sentence for aggravated manslaughter can add time to a sentence, mitigating circumstances can lower the calculated tally.
Federal Manslaughter Charges
Although voluntary manslaughter charges are usually prosecuted by the state in which the crime occurred there are certain occasions when the federal government will prosecute the case. If the case involves the death of a federal employee or if the incident takes place in what is known as "within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States"; which is basically waters that are not within any particular states jurisdiction but still under the dominion of the United States government, or on federal land, a federal charge may be cited. The penalties for a conviction of a federal manslaughter case can vary from the punishments that each individual state may impose.
Through my more than thirty-five years of experience on both sides of prosecuting and defending those charged with manslaughter I have gained significant knowledge to provide the best possible defense for these type of allegations.
Now as a criminal defense attorney, my insight of how the prosecution will proceed has given me the tools to fight for each of my individual client's rights and has made my experience a logical choice to mount a strong and dynamic defense in contrast to any allegations alleged by the State of Florida as well as allegations brought forward by the federal government.
If you or someone you care about is facing charges for voluntary manslaughter fill out the contact form and explain the details of the charge, or call any of the phone numbers listed throughout this Website at the top of every page. Carefully scrutinizing the details of your particular case and building a strong defense at the earliest possible instance of a criminal arrest will present the best possible chance for the return of a positive outcome.