Manslaughter can be thought of as the middle ground of homicide. Murder charges are usually reserved for cases in which one person kills another (technically, all killings are homicides) under circumstances that society considers truly egregious: with the intent to kill, and having planned it to some degree, rather than having reacted on the spur of the moment to some understandable emotional impulse. The killing may be completely excused under other circumstances, which society considers to justify the killing. In between are those killings less egregious than murder, but too serious for society to simply excuse. In sum, manslaughter is less serious than murder, but it can still kill your future. It is a very serious charge that can put you in a prison cell for a major portion of your life, so call a Tampa manslaughter attorney immediately.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter
Voluntary manslaughter describes a case in which the killing of the victim was intended, but the defendant didn’t have the “malice aforethought” required to satisfy a murder charge—cases of provocation, emotional reactions such as the classic “heat of passion” situation, etc.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the defendant did not specifically intend to harm the victim, but acted so carelessly that the state feels the need to punish him. In essence, this is what many people call “negligent homicide.” For example, if you drive your car 120 miles an hour through city streets posted at 30 mph, lose control, and kill two pedestrians, you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The Florida manslaughter law describes the type of carelessness involved in involuntary manslaughter as “culpable negligence” in Tampa.
Penalties; Enhancement for Aggravated Manslaughter
Under Florida law, simple (non-aggravated) manslaughter is a second degree felony. The penalty may be up to 15 years in prison.
There are various groups of people that the state considers entitled to increased protection, either because of their special vulnerability or their roles in society. If the manslaughter victim falls into one of these categories, the violent crime rises to aggravated manslaughter. That raises the crime to a first degree felony with a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
Florida law explicitly makes it aggravated manslaughter if the victim falls into any of these categories:
- Children under 18
- Law enforcement officers
Manslaughter is aggravated any time the victim is disabled, elderly, or a child, but is only aggravated in the case of the other categories when the victim was actually performing the duties of that job at the time of the killing.
Defending Manslaughter Charges
Involuntary manslaughter charges can be defended by establishing that the defendant’s negligence wasn’t so extreme that it can be considered “reckless” or “grossly careless” disregard for the life and safety of others. The facts of the case need to be carefully and clearly analyzed and the court shown why those facts don’t meet the standard of culpability. The skill of the criminal defense lawyer often determines whether that defense is successful.
In the case of aggravated manslaughter, your Tampa manslaughter lawyer needs to analyze the victim’s characteristics and occupation. Was the victim, in fact, disabled? Was the victim performing a rescue function at the time of the killing or merely present as a private citizen?
Don’t Delay in Getting Experienced Legal Advice
There is no substitute for experience when it comes to defending yourself from charges of manslaughter. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will thoroughly understand both the legal and factual challenges of the case, including the little mistakes that law enforcement and prosecutors tend to make. A criminal defense specialist with decades of experience in the Tampa area has personal knowledge of the police, prosecutors, and judges who will be involved in your case.
For more than 20 years, Tampa manslaughter attorney Will Hanlon has handled criminal cases throughout the west-central coastal region of Florida. He understands how important his job is to someone facing the kinds of penalties that a manslaughter conviction may bring. To get your defense under way, call Hanlon Law.