A homicide occurs anytime a person kills another, and can be either lawful or unlawful. In Kansas, there are seven types of criminal homicide: capital murder, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and assisting suicide. This article provides a brief overview of Kansas' voluntary manslaughter law.
The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter
Malice, or the intention or desire to kill or cause serious bodily harm, is the key difference between murder and manslaughter. Murder is the unlawful killing of another with malice aforethought, while manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another without malice.
What's the Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter?
In Kansas, the main difference between voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter is whether or not the killing was done intentionally. Voluntary manslaughter is usually defined as an intentional killing where the offender didn't previously intend to kill the victim (for example if the killing took place "in the heat of passion").
Some states, including Kansas, also define voluntary manslaughter to include killings where the offender mistakenly believed that the use of deadly force was legally permissible. The chart below illustrates Kansas' voluntary manslaughter law.
|Kansas Statutes section 21-3403: Voluntary Manslaughter
|Intentionally killing a human being:
- Upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion, or
- Upon an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force (see Kansas Statutes sections 21-3211, 21-3212, or 21-3213)
|Voluntary manslaughter is a severity level 3, person felony.
Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses
A defendant charged with voluntary manslaughter may attempt to prove that they didn't commit the crime, claim that their actions were justified, or show that their actions didn't meet the elements of voluntary manslaughter. The circumstances surrounding each case determines which of the following defenses, if any, a defendant will likely use.
- Actual innocence: Here the defendant argues that he didn't commit the crime. This is usually accomplished by providing an alibi, or by attacking the prosecutor's evidence.
- Perfect Self-defense: The defendant can claim that the circumstances surrounding the killing provided for a perfect claim of self-defense. Here the defendant can claim that there was a reasonable need to use deadly force in order to protect his own life.
- Insanity: If the defendant was legally insane at the time of the killing, then the court won't hold the defendant accountable for his actions. See FindLaw's Insanity Defense Section for additional information about the insanity defense.
- Accidental Killing: By showing that the killing was an accident, the charge of voluntary manslaughter may be reduced to the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter (for which the killing doesn't need to be intentional).
For more information about commonly used defenses to a voluntary manslaughter charge see FindLaw's article on voluntary manslaughter defenses.
State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Kansas' voluntary manslaughter law contact a local criminal defense attorney.