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The difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Hundreds of different behaviors are illegal in Maryland. Engaging in conduct that leads to the injury or death of another person is a serious criminal offense. Violent crimes carry some of the harshest penalties out of any offenses prosecuted in Maryland.

Those accused of intentionally causing the death of another person may face murder or homicide charges. However, prosecutors can also bring criminal charges against people who caused a death without premeditation or malicious intent. Manslaughter charges can follow a drunk driving crash or a fistfight that leads to someone dying. Prosecutors may charge people with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter depending on the circumstances.

Voluntary manslaughter involves provocation

Many cases prosecuted as voluntary manslaughter might technically be homicides in other states. Maryland considers provocation a potentially mitigating factor in scenarios that lead to someone’s death. A voluntary homicide charge could be the result of an incident in which one party intentionally provokes the other, which then leads to fatal violence. People may refer to these as crimes of passion or crimes of temporary insanity. Maryland does specifically exclude the killing of a spouse or their affair partner as a form of voluntary manslaughter. Such cases typically constitute murder.

Involuntary manslaughter may involve negligence or minor crimes

The state could pursue involuntary manslaughter charges against those who unintentionally caused the death of someone else through conduct that was reasonably likely to cause harm. For example, someone who committed a misdemeanor offense, only to have the situation unexpectedly lead to someone dying, might face involuntary manslaughter charges.

An attempted mugging that results in a cardiac event where someone dies might fall into this category. The state can also pursue involuntary manslaughter charges when negligence is what caused someone’s death. Someone texting while driving or engaging in other unsafe activity while in control of a motor vehicle could face involuntary homicide charges because they caused a crash where someone died even though they had no intent of harming others.

Both involuntary and voluntary manslaughter allegations in Maryland tend to lead to felony charges. Learning more about the different types of violent crimes, including homicide and manslaughter, can benefit those accused of harming another person. Maryland’s unique manslaughter rules can influence the defense strategy that someone employs when facing charges.