In Massachusetts, under G.L. c. 265, §13, manslaughter may be prosecuted as voluntary and involuntary. Both involuntary and voluntary manslaughter involve a sudden death that is the result of the defendant’s actions. Manslaughter differs from murder in that there is no malice. If you have been accused of manslaughter, retain an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney to defend you.
Voluntary manslaughter is often characterized as a crime of passion. An individual commits voluntary manslaughter by killing the victim in response to reasonable provocation, in the heat of passion triggered by sudden combat, or by using excessive force in self-defense. The defendant need not have intended to kill the victim, but the Commonwealth must prove that he intentionally inflicted injuries that were likely to result in the victim’s death and did cause the victim’s death.
“Reasonable provocation” is provocation so intense a reasonable man’s resulting passion, anger, fear, fright or nervous excitement overcomes his capacity for reflection or restraint. Words alone (i.e., an insult) rarely qualify as a reasonable provocation.
In distinguishing between voluntary manslaughter and murder, courts often examine whether the defendant had adequate time to “cool off.”
An individual using excessive force in self-defense resulting in the attacker’s death, may be prosecuted for voluntary manslaughter. An individual is allowed to use reasonable force to protect himself, or someone else – essentially force commensurate with the force being deployed by the attacker. Before resorting to lethal force in self-defense, an individual must believe he is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury and have exhausted all means of avoiding combat. Though excessive force may be relatively well understood in law school classrooms, few individuals are capable, especially in the heat of battle, of objectively assessing the threat level of an attacker. After all, such encounters usually last seconds. And those failing to react with adequate force to subdue or, at least ward off an attack, leave themselves vulnerable to serious injury or death. In such instances, going too far is better than not going far enough; after all, it is better to risk being prosecuted for using excessive force than to be the victim.
Involuntary manslaughter is characterized as reckless conduct or battery resulting in the victim’s death.
The Commonwealth must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant, while engaging in wanton or reckless conduct, which he knew or should have known was creating a high likelihood that someone would suffer substantial harm, unintentionally killed a person. Involuntary manslaughter is also an unlawful killing resulting from the commission of a battery under circumstances which the person committing the battery knew or reasonably should known endangered human life.
A conviction for manslaughter is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, or a $1,000.00 fine and 2 ½ years in the house of correction.
Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney
The Mahoney Criminal Defense Group has successfully defended those charged with murder, motor vehicle homicide, and manslaughter in the courts of Massachusetts. Call us at 617-492-0055 to schedule a free in-office consultation with one of our Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys.