Prosecutors in Texas and around the country charge individuals with manslaughter when the facts suggest that they killed another person unintentionally or the circumstances of the case do not support a murder count. When deciding what type of manslaughter charge is appropriate, prosecutors consider the amount of intent the individual acted with. When the defendant did not intend to cause death or serious injury, prosecutors will usually file an involuntary manslaughter charge. When the act that caused the death was intentional but the outcome was not, they will generally file a voluntary manslaughter charge.
People may be charged with involuntary manslaughter if they take a life without intending to. They may face harsher penalties if they were committing an illegal act at the time such as running a red light. Individuals can also be charged with involuntary manslaughter if a life is lost because they acted with gross negligence. An example of this would be leaving a child locked inside a car on a hot day with all of the windows closed.
Prosecutors file voluntary manslaughter charges when an unintended death was caused by a deliberate act. Individuals are often charged with voluntary manslaughter when they acted violently in the heat of the moment. These are situations where a reasonable person would feel an irresistible impulse to act. In Texas, individuals may be charged with murder in the second degree for acts that would lead to an involuntary manslaughter charge in other states.
Defenses in manslaughter cases
The penalties for both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter can be harsh, which is why individuals accused of committing these crimes may be wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any statements or answering any questions. When their clients are charged with these types of violent crimes, attorneys may mount a defense based on innocence or argue that the facts of the case do not support the charges.