California penal code (192) defines voluntary manslaughter as the killing of another human being. It is an act that is committed during a sudden quarrel, in the heat of passion or in the “honest but unreasonable belief in the need to defend oneself.

In practice, manslaughter charges are typically filed in murder cases where the alleged perpetrator has admitted to killing the victim but seeks to have the charge reduced from murder to manslaughter

Prosecutors in a murder case may agree to a plea bargain in which the accused pleads guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a dismissal of the murder charge. Or the jury in a murder trial could find the defendant guilty of the lesser offense of manslaughter, rather than the charged offense of murder.

The Difference Between Murder And Manslaughter

When you kill someone intentionally, and have no legally valid excuse for doing so, or when you act with a “conscious disregard for human life,” you have committed murder or manslaughter. What is the difference between the two? “Malice aforethought.” This term “malice aforethought means that you have acted with an intent to kill and a wanton disregard for human life. You are guilty of murder when you kill another person or fetus with malice aforethought. On the other hand, when someone is killed during a quarrel or in the heat of passion, it indicates that you acted without malice, and may be eligible for the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter.

California courts have ruled that when you are provoked “in the heat of passion”  it must be so influential that it could cause a reasonable person to act violently or irrationally. In other words it must be a serious provocation.

What Are The Penalties For Manslaughter And Murder?

The penalties for voluntary manslaughter in California range from probation with one year in county jail up to multiple terms in state prison. Murder is punishable by 15 years to life in state prison, depending on the severity of the charges. First-degree murder carries a term of 25 years to life.