In Delaware, there are six types of criminal homicide: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, murder by abuse or neglect, manslaughter (referred to as voluntary manslaughter in some states), criminally negligent homicide, and vehicular homicide. This article provides a brief overview of Delaware's manslaughter law.
Manslaughter is generally defined as the unlawful killing of a human without malice. Malice aforethought, or having the prior intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm, is the key element that distinguishes manslaughter from murder (the unlawful killing of another human without malice). However, each state individually defines murder and manslaughter, so the precise definition of each crime varies from state to state. The table below outlines Delaware's manslaughter laws.
|Delaware Code section 632: Manslaughter
|A person is guilty of manslaughter when:
- A person recklessly causes the death of another person
- With the intent to cause serious physical injury to another person the defender kills the victim by employing means which would to a reasonable person in the defendant's situation (knowing the facts known to the defendant) seem likely to cause death
- A person intentionally causes the death of another person under circumstances which do not constitute murder because the defender acts under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance
- A person commits upon a female an abortion which causes her death (unless such abortion is a therapeutic abortion and the death isn't the result of reckless conduct), or
- A person intentionally causes another person to commit suicide
|Manslaughter is a class B felony.
Killing Under Extreme Emotional Distress – Mitigating Murder to Manslaughter
It should be noted that intentionally causing the death of another person would generally qualify as first-degree murder in Delaware. However, if the killer acted under the influence of "extreme emotional distress" then the crime may be downgraded to the lesser offense of manslaughter.
If the offender can prove that there is a reasonable explanation or excuse for the existence of the extreme emotional distress, and that they killed someone while in this distressed state, the offender is seen as being less morally culpable for the killing and the extreme emotional distress qualifies as a mitigating circumstance. The classic example of a killing committed under the influence of extreme emotional distress is when a husband comes home to find his wife in bed with her lover and kills the lover in the heat of passion.
State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Delaware's voluntary manslaughter law contact a local criminal defense lawyer.