Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is a form of criminal homicide that involves a killing that occurs while the defendant was provoked into the “heat of passion.”

Given the circumstantial factors that give rise to a voluntary manslaughter, it is definitionally a less severe offense than murder. However, this should not give the impression that voluntary manslaughter is a minor offense.  Voluntary manslaughter is a felony offense and prosecutorial authorities are sure to push forward with litigation aggressively if the facts support the charge.

Basics of a Voluntary Manslaughter Charge

Section 2503 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes summarizes the elements necessary for a voluntary manslaughter conviction to stand.  According to the statute, a person will be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter if he or she:

  1. kills an individual without lawful justification; and
  2. at the time of the killing, he or she is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by the individual killed, or by another individual who the defendant endeavored to kill (thus leading to the negligent killing of the wrong individual).

The above elements define the “heat of passion” form of voluntary manslaughter, in which the defendant is provoked into an emotional and passionate reaction, thus influencing their ability to make a rational judgment about their actions.

In Pennsylvania, however, there is another form of voluntary manslaughter based on an unreasonable belief.

If you killed an individual while believing you were acting in self-defense, but your belief that was unreasonable, then you may be charged with voluntary manslaughter. For example, you may be charged with voluntary manslaughter if you killed an individual while you were under the impression that the individual was going to pull a gun on you, but that belief was simply unreasonable given the circumstances.

Voluntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony offense that carries penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Reasonable Person Standard and Insufficient Cooling Off Period

Prosecutors may attempt to upgrade your charge to murder by demonstrating that the provocation at-issue would not have caused a reasonable person to have been incited to such fear, anger, or passion so as to create an irrational mind.  When defending yourself against such assertions, you will have to prove that a reasonable person — given the same circumstances — would have been similarly provoked.

Prosecutors may also attempt to upgrade your charge to murder by introducing evidence that insinuates that you had sufficient time between the provocation at issue (i.e., insults, or other provocative acts) and the killing act to “cool off.”.  If prosecutors can prove that you were rationally-minded at the time of the killing, and no longer influenced by the “heat of passion,” then they may be able to upgrade your charge to murder.

Contact an Experienced Pittsburgh Voluntary Manslaughter Defense Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been charged with voluntary manslaughter or another homicide offense, then you may be exposed to significant penalties pursuant to Pennsylvania criminal law.  We urge those who have been charged with voluntary manslaughter or any other violent crimes to contact a qualified Pittsburgh defense lawyer for further guidance and a comprehensive evaluation of their case.

Here at McKinney Law, our attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of criminal defendants in a range of disputes, including those that involve voluntary manslaughter charges.  We believe that effective legal representation in a criminal case requires comprehensive and individualized service. Therefore, we make ourselves easily accessible to clients for all their inquiries.  Clients are encouraged to contact us at any time, and we will respond within 24 hours of the inquiry, if not sooner.

Call (412) 520-3301 or submit a message through our website to connect to an experienced Pittsburgh voluntary manslaughter defense lawyer at McKinney Law.