Fairfax manslaughter attorney

A manslaughter charge against you might feel like a time to panic. Whether it’s a charge of involuntary, voluntary, or DUI manslaughter, it is reasonable to feel overwhelmed because a person has died and a conviction could result in a prison sentence and significant fines. fairfax manslaughter attorney If you were charged with manslaughter, don’t panic – take action by contacting a skilled Fairfax criminal defense lawyer at Select Law Partners PLLC. Schedule a consultation by contacting us online or calling (855) 541-4867. In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the different types of manslaughter charges, their penalties, and potential defenses your attorney might employ.

Difference between manslaughter and murder

Although murder and manslaughter are both considered “homicide crimes” since they both result in someone’s death and they’re both felonies, there’s a major difference between the two. The key difference is malice. In general terms, murder is a killing with the malicious intent to do serious bodily harm or to kill the deceased. This means that the alleged perpetrator must have conducted themselves in a way that’s viewed as intentional and was likely to result in death. A common misunderstanding of manslaughter is that it’s an accidental act that results in someone’s death, but this isn’t completely true. In manslaughter, you may not have possessed the malicious intent to kill someone, but you did intend the unlawful act that resulted in death.

Three types of manslaughter

In Virginia, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are common law offenses, which means they aren’t defined in state law. However, some guidelines are included in the Code as are the punishments applicable to each charge.

Voluntary manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is generally defined as an intentional but non-malicious homicide that occurred in sudden mutual combat or in the heat of passion caused by reasonable provocation. Some examples of voluntary manslaughter include killing a person in a sudden and unplanned fight or killing a person when acting in self-defense if the initial aggressor was overreacting to a situation or in a domestic dispute (as either party). fairfax manslaghter attorney fight A common example of voluntary manslaughter is when a person goes home and sees that their spouse is having an affair, and they immediately start attacking their spouse and the lover in a fit of rage, ultimately killing them. This would be regarded as voluntary manslaughter because:
  • The deaths were a result of an act of rage or in the heat of passion,
  • The alleged perpetrator was provoked by the astounding scene and discovery of the affair,
  • The alleged perpetrator entered their home without malice.
This type of crime was an act that occurred in a moment of passion. However, the defendant must prove that they were reasonably provoked and that they acted instinctively or without thought. There can be no “cooling off” period between the provocation and the violent action or else the act may be charged as murder rather than manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is simply the unintentional killing of another human while committing an unlawful act.  The accidental killing can be caused while committing a lawful act improperly, or by committing a crime that isn’t a felony – the focus is on the person’s reckless or negligent actions or wanton disregard for a fellow human’s life. Although it’s not specifically defined in the Code of Virginia, §18.2-36.1 outlines certain conduct that’s punishable by involuntary manslaughter:
  • Driving under the influence and unintentionally causing someone’s death
  • If the defendant’s conduct is so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, they may be guilty of aggravated involuntary manslaughter
These are a few scenarios that could be considered involuntary manslaughter:
  • If a gun is accidentally discharged and someone is struck with the bullet and dies, the killing was unlawful but without malice. It’s especially important to hire an experienced attorney for any type of gun-related charge because discharging a firearm is a serious offense that the prosecution will try to pursue, even when it’s not warranted.
  • A teenager rides a moped on a public sidewalk even though a recent city ordinance made this illegal and classified it as a misdemeanor. He’s riding at a very high rate of speed when he hits someone getting out of their car. That person eventually passes away due to the injuries they suffered. The death was unintentional, but the teenager caused the accident while committing an unlawful act.
  • Two people get into an argument in a store and the conflict escalates into a shoving match. One person shoves the other too hard, and they fall backward and hit their head – an injury that eventually proves to be fatal.
  •  A motorist picks up their phone to answer a text while approaching a stop sign at an intersection. They aren’t paying attention and fail to notice a pedestrian in the crosswalk as they continue driving. They hit the pedestrian, who dies at the scene.

DUI manslaughter

Deaths that occur while operating a vehicle or watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are involuntary manslaughter, often referred to as DUI manslaughter. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a very serious offense. Under Code of Virginia §18.2-266, a person is considered in violation if any of the following apply:
  • A BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) of 0.08 or higher
  • A methamphetamine concentration of at least 0.1 mg (milligrams) per liter of blood
  • An MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) concentration of at least 0.1 mg per liter of blood
  • A concentration of cocaine that’s at least 0.02 mg per liter
  • A PCP (phenyl cyclohexyl piperidine – commonly referred to as “angel dust”) concentration of at least 0.01 mg per liter
fairfax manslaughter attorney dui The prosecution might try to prove that the driver’s conduct was so grossly negligent and showed a wanton disregard for human life in order to pursue a charge of aggravated involuntary manslaughter which carries much more severe consequences. An experienced Fairfax manslaughter defense attorney with Select Law Partners PLLC will help gather evidence and testimony to contradict the claims made by the prosecution.

Penalties for manslaughter

Manslaughter is classified as a class 5 felony. Felony convictions carry a slew of collateral consequences including loss of your right to vote or purchase a firearm. Felony convictions may restrict you from many job opportunities, careers, or government benefits and could even restrict where you are allowed to live. The actual imprisonment and fine penalties that can be issued at sentencing will depend on the specifics of each case. There are some instances where a conviction of voluntary manslaughter can lead to a sentence of between 1-10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $100,000; involuntary manslaughter carries the same sentence. Here are some other charges with additional penalties:
  • DUI-related manslaughter charges will impose additional consequences such as a suspended or revoked license, attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, or alcohol safety classes.
  • If someone acts in a manner that shows an extreme disregard for the lives of others and is charged with aggravated involuntary manslaughter, they can be punished by no more than 20 years in prison, but there’s a one-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.
Your attorney will fight for you to ensure you aren’t overcharged by the prosecution or that you don’t face unreasonable fines and consequences as a result of your actions. This isn’t the type of situation you want to handle on your own – you need to hire an experienced attorney.

Potential defenses

To protect your future following a manslaughter charge, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to employ the most effective defense strategies possible. In order to do this, you need to be open with your attorney and tell them every detail about your case so they know what defenses might work best for your case. Successful defenses may result in having your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. Here are a few defense strategies your legal representative may consider.

Legal and procedural defenses

  • Violation of Fourth Amendment rights – The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects all citizens from any unlawful searches and seizures performed by any law enforcement agency. If the evidence being presented against you was unlawfully gathered, it could be thrown out or suppressed which could result in the prosecution dropping your criminal charges. One example is police failing to secure the proper type of warrant to search your home.
  • Procedural problems – Police officers, investigators, and prosecutors must follow specific procedures when someone is arrested, booked, and questioned or interrogated. The same holds true when a bail hearing is set and during any other pretrial activities. Any error at any point in the process could be a violation of your rights and could be grounds for certain evidence to be excluded. In order to determine whether an error took place, you’ll need the help of a skilled attorney.
  • Insufficient evidence. – The police and prosecutors may have built their case on flimsy or inaccurate evidence. For example, they might not have solid facts and instead are solely relying on unreliable witness testimony, testimony which might be easily challenged. When your attorney knows that the prosecution has a losing case due to weak evidence, they will push to convince the district attorney there’s not enough evidence to bring a charge against you in the first place, and there’s definitely not enough for a conviction. If charges are filed anyway, your attorney will be prepared to challenge the evidence at a preliminary hearing or at trial.

Other defenses

  • You didn’t do it. If the evidence supports that you were falsely identified as the perpetrator, then your attorney should be sure that evidence is seen and highlighted for the court or the jury.
  • You were acting in self-defense. You may have been forced to take action against someone who was attacking you or a member of your family, and, unfortunately, your actions led to the death of the assailant. If your attorney can prove that you were protecting yourself or someone else from imminent harm or possibly death, then your charges could be dismissed.
  • “Imperfect” self-defense. This is a situation where self-defense might not excuse you from a manslaughter charge, but it might lead to a reduction in your sentence. For example, you might have killed someone because you believed you or a loved one was in danger. The facts of the case show that there was, in fact, some danger, but they might also show that you overreacted or used more force than necessary to eliminate that danger. You may still be found guilty, yet not have to serve a maximum sentence.
  • You couldn’t differentiate between right and wrong. There are many instances where someone might kill another person and have no idea of what they did. It could be a mental issue that periodically manifests itself in a manner you can’t control. If this applies to you, there’s a possibility your charges could be dropped, or your penalties could be significantly reduced.
  • You were involuntarily intoxicated. If you were intoxicated, that won’t save you from a potential conviction for manslaughter. However, if you can prove that your intoxication was forced upon you, such as being drugged without your knowledge or having alcohol forced on you under the threat of violence, then you may have a potential defense.
  • Unreliable witnesses. It’s possible that someone claimed to see you commit the act that resulted in another’s death, but eyewitnesses can be wrong or may have motivations to lie. Additionally, Commonwealth Attorneys will sometimes rely on the testimony of individuals in jail who falsely claim you have confessed to them in exchange for leniency in their own case. A strong legal representative will not only investigate the incident, they will also challenge the witness’ testimony.

What if you’re offered a plea deal?

There are many circumstances under which the prosecution might offer a plea deal. Sometimes they might feel that they might not have sufficient evidence for a conviction, or you could have information relevant to another case and they’ll hope you will help the police, other times the Commonwealth Attorney’s office is swamped with cases and jury trials take considerable time and potential risk to their reputation. A plea deal could result in lowering your charges, a reduced sentence, or a potential dismissal of your charges, depending on the offer. You are not required to accept any plea offer and the decision to accept or reject a plea is ultimately yours. A good manslaughter defense lawyer will give you their best advice but be ready to follow your decision either way. You should never have any conversations regarding a plea deal without your attorney. A Fairfax manslaughter defense lawyer from Select Law Partners PLLC will make sure your rights are protected at all times throughout any negotiations. An attorney will be able to provide the recommendation that will be in your best interests.

Charged with manslaughter? We can help.

The criminal defense attorneys at Select Law Partners PLLC are ready to provide you with the aggressive representation you need if you’ve been charged with manslaughter. These are very serious charges–call us right away at (855) 541-4867 or use our online form to schedule your consultation.