Manslaughter is a separate and distinct crime than the offense of murder. Unlike murder, manslaughter does not require a defendant to have acted with premeditation or an intent to kill. Rather, a person commits the offense if he or she kills another person while acting with “criminal negligence.” A conviction of the crime can bring life altering consequences. If you or a loved one has been charged with second degree manslaughter, contact our experienced homicide attorneys now for legal help that truly matters.
What is Manslaughter in the Second Degree?
The laws on manslaughter in the second degree are set forth in RCW 9A.32.070. This statute says that a person is guilty of the crime when:
- He or she causes the death of another person, and
- He or she does so while acting with “criminal negligence.”
The term “criminal negligence” is defined in the Washington State statute RCW 9A.08.010(d). This law says that a person is criminally negligent when he or she fails to be aware of a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his or her failure to be aware of such substantial risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation.
For the crime of manslaughter in the second degree, the wrongful act at issue is a death. Thus, in order to convict someone of this crime, the state must prove that the defendant was aware of a substantial risk that a death may occur because of his or her acts and that reasonable people would find that the acts seriously departed from the standards they would hold themselves to.
Assume, for example, a man attends a July 4th celebration in a crowded public park. At one point, the man pulls out a shotgun and fires it into the air. This is considered acting with criminal negligence. The act of firing a shotgun in a crowded park is a glaring departure from how a reasonable person would have acted under similar circumstances. If the firing of the gun causes a person’s death, the man would face charges of second degree manslaughter.
Note that manslaughter in the second degree is not the same offense as first degree manslaughter. The latter occurs when a person causes the death of another and does so while acting recklessly.
What are the penalties?
Manslaughter in the second degree is a Class B felony. The crime is punishable by:
- a maximum of 10 years in state prison, and/or
- a maximum fine of $20,000.
Most defendants without prior criminal history who are convicted of this offense will receive a prison term of between 21 and 27 months. For people with prior history the sentence will be much longer.
Are There Defenses?
A skilled criminal defense attorney can raise a legal defense to help an accused contest manslaughter charges. While the most effective defense will depend on the facts of a given case, some common defenses to these charges include:
- even if the defendant’s actions caused a death they did not rise to the level of criminal negligence,
- the defendant was falsely accused, and
- the defendant was arrested after the police coerced a confession.
An accused also has the right to challenge any evidence that the State wants to introduce during the case. This includes evidence like DNA samples, fingerprints, and other forensic evidence.
The criminal defense lawyers at Black & Askerov have over 25 combined years of experience contesting homicide charges – including charges of both first and second degree manslaughter. They work tirelessly to protect their clients and they defend them with both passion and strength. An allegation of manslaughter is a serious issue that requires a criminal defense attorney that will fight for you at every step along the way. Our team performs nothing less. Contact our firm now and get the legal help you deserve.