The difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter is fairly self-evident. Voluntary manslaughter means that a person intended to kill or at least cause significant harm. Involuntary manslaughter involves reckless or negligent behavior, but any death resulting from an accident.
Even if a defendant is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, there are defenses that a criminal defense attorney can make to the court, such as showing that the death was accidental, to try to get the charge reduced to involuntary manslaughter. Which defense strategy is used will depend upon the facts of the case.
A defendant may be able to claim that they acted in self-defense. To do so, a "perfect" self-defense claim needs to be made. That means that the defendant had a reasonable need to act with lethal force to prevent their own death. To make this claim, the defendant must be innocent of any wrongdoing. For example, if the defendant started a fight and then in the midst of the fight, the other person attempted to kill the defendant, a perfect self-defense claim cannot be made.
Intoxication may be used as a defense, but only under certain circumstances. The intoxication must have been involuntary. For example, if someone was unknowingly drugged, an attorney may be able to use this defense. However, if a defendant just drank too much and killed someone, it won't work.
An insanity defense can be a tricky one. A defendant has to show that they were legally insane at the time of the incident. States use different standards for determining insanity. Maryland uses the Model Penal Code test. The MPC test is broader than those used in some other states. The defendant must have been diagnosed with a mental defect such as schizophrenia or severe mental retardation that prevented them from obeying the law or understanding that the conduct was criminal.
A voluntary manslaughter conviction, like all convictions involving violent crimes, can have a serious and long-lasting impact on a person's future. If there are any kind of extenuating circumstances that led to the homicide, it's essential that those be explored and, if they can be used as a defense, presented in court.
If you find yourself accused of a crime, please reach out to The Law Offices James E. Crawford Jr and associates. We are a team of experienced, serious trial lawyers that will not judge you for what you may or may not have done but rather focus on making sure your rights are protected. Please contact us for a free initial consultation.