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Indiana Voluntary Manslaughter Law

Voluntary manslaughter happens when one person intentionally kills another person, but he or she acted out of passion or anger before having time to calm down. You've probably heard people use the term "cold blooded murder" vs "heat of the moment manslaughter" to illustrate the difference between murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Indiana law prohibits both murder and voluntary manslaughter as crimes involving purposefully killing a human being. However, voluntary manslaughter is different from murder because the killer was acting under an emotional excitement that caused him or her to act without thinking twice. For voluntary manslaughter to apply, the killing has to be the result of an emotional excitement and the circumstances causing the emotional excitement must be so anger inducing, that a reasonable person in that same situation would have acted the same way. If the defendant had time to cool off before he or she killed, it's considered a murder.

Examples of Voluntary Manslaughter

To understand the concept of an emotional excitement and its effect of making a murder a voluntary manslaughter, it's helpful to think of two common examples: self-defense and infidelity.


A person may overreact while defending himself or herself and kill the initial attacker. One area this arises in is domestic violence when the victim kills his or her abuser. The battered spouse may act with intent to kill, but since he or she acted in self-defense while "in the heat of passion," a judge or jury may find the person guilty of voluntary manslaughter, not murder.

Cheating Spouse

When a husbands and wives unexpectedly walks in on their spouses having sex with another person, they could be under extreme emotional excitement. If when they see this, they grab a gun and shoot their spouse and the spouse's lover, the judge or jury may find that it was voluntary manslaughter. However, if the husband or wife leaves, drinks for hours, and then goes to home of the spouse's love and shoots the lover while he or she is sleeping, the judge or jury may find that there was adequate time to cool down. Thus, it would be murder, not voluntary manslaughter.

Indiana Voluntary Manslaughter Statute

The following table highlights the main provisions of Indiana's voluntary manslaughter law.

Code Sections

Indiana Code Section 35-42-1-3: Voluntary Manslaughter

What is Prohibited?

Indiana prohibits the knowing or intentional killing of another human being or viable fetus while acting under "sudden heat." Sudden heat is a mitigating factor that reduces the killing which would otherwise be murder to manslaughter.


Voluntary manslaughter is a Level 2 felony punishable by 10-30 years incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000.

Note: On July 1, 2014 Indiana criminal law changed from classifying felonies as Classes A-D to Levels 1-6 as described above. Some individuals, literature, or website may still refer to the old system.

Civil Case

Often, after a criminal murder trial, there's a civil wrongful death suit for the victim's family to recover compensation for the death of their loved one. The civil trial has a lower burden of proof, so even if found not guilty for the murder, it's possible to be found legally responsible for the victim's death. In a famous example, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, but he was found responsible for their deaths in the wrongful death cases.

If someone brings a wrongful death lawsuit against you, it's important to quickly contact an experienced personal injury defense attorney for assistance.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Indiana Involuntary Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources

Need Help with a Voluntary Manslaughter Charge? Contact an Attorney

Manslaughter is not quite as serious as murder, but a conviction on voluntary manslaughter charges can send you away to prison for a significant amount of time. No matter the charges, defendants have the right to an attorney. Contact a criminal defense attorney in Indiana today to find out how a legal professional can help with your voluntary manslaughter charges.

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