Voluntary Manslaughter in Virginia
Unlike most other states, Virginia defines what constitutes voluntary and involuntary manslaughter through case law rather than statutes. It is often referred to as a crime of passion.
Under our commonwealth’s laws, it is considered voluntary manslaughter to unlawfully kill someone without malice. The killing must have been committed intentionally but without any planning for this crime to have been committed. It is often charged when the accused kills someone after being provoked or in the heat of passion. Examples of when a person could be charged with voluntary manslaughter include:
- They got into an unplanned fight with someone and killed them.
- They found the victim in their bed with their spouse, became angry, and killed them.
- They got into a domestic dispute or were being abused by a partner at the time of the other person’s death.
- They were acting in self-defense, but they were found to have overreacted in killing their attacker.
Involuntary and Aggravated Involuntary Manslaughter in Virginia
Under our state’s case law, involuntary manslaughter is defined as the accidental killing of another individual. The killing must have been committed during an unlawful act, that is not a felony or a lawful act, that was performed improperly. Situations where a person could be charged with involuntary manslaughter include:
- They discharged a weapon in an open crowd, and someone was killed.
- They mistook the brake pedal for the accelerator and caused an accident that resulted in a victim’s death.
- They caused an individual’s death when intoxicated due to alcohol or drug use. This is a common situation when involuntary manslaughter is charged.
In addition, the crime of involuntary manslaughter can be charged as aggravated manslaughter if the accused’s conduct was “so gross, wanton, and culpable to show a reckless disregard for human life.”
Penalties for Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter
Because voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are violent crimes, they are punished harshly in our commonwealth. Both are charged as a Class 5 felony. However, the punishments are slightly different for each offense. If convicted, an individual could be sentenced as follows:
- Voluntary manslaughter. The punishment for voluntary manslaughter is a minimum of one year to up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. However, the judge has the discretion to sentence a defendant to less than one year in jail instead of prison.
- Involuntary manslaughter. The sentence for involuntary manslaughter is the same as for voluntary manslaughter, except that there is no minimum one-year sentence.
- Manslaughter while intoxicated. If a defendant was driving while intoxicated and is convicted of involuntary manslaughter, their driver’s license could be suspended, and they could be required to complete an alcohol safety program in addition to the other punishments that can be imposed.
- Aggravated involuntary manslaughter. The penalties are much more severe if a person is convicted of aggravated involuntary manslaughter. They would be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of one year served to a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Contact Our Experienced Criminal Defense Legal Team Today
Are you or a loved one facing voluntary, involuntary, or aggravated involuntary manslaughter charges in Virginia? You may have strong defenses that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense—even if you believe you are guilty.
Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers are here to explain what you can expect to happen in your criminal case and to mount an aggressive defense strategy to help you achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more about how we can assist you, call our Manassas office at 888-DUI-LWYR, start an online chat, or complete our convenient online form to schedule your free initial consultation today.