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Kentucky Voluntary Manslaughter Law

A criminal homicide occurs when someone illegally takes the life of another. In Kentucky there are four types of criminal homicide: murder, first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, and reckless homicide. This article focuses on first-degree manslaughter, which is known in other states as voluntary manslaughter. The following table highlights Kentucky's first-degree manslaughter law.

Code Section

Kentucky Revised Statutes section 507.030: First-Degree Manslaughter (or Voluntary Manslaughter)


What's Prohibited?

There are two ways to commit first-degree manslaughter:

  1. Intending to cause serious physical injury to another person, and instead causing that person (or a third person) to die, or
  2. Intending to kill someone, and causing that person's death (or the death of a third person) while acting under the influence of an "extreme emotional disturbance"



Class B felony punishable by imprisonment for between 10 and 20 years.


What Is an Extreme Emotional Disturbance?

Sometimes, a homicide is committed under circumstances that warrant the crime to be downgraded from murder to the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter because the offender's actions were reasonable given the circumstances. In many states, these killings are referred to as "heat of passion killings" while Kentucky refers to them as killings committed under an "extreme emotional disturbance."

Under Kentucky's voluntary manslaughter law, an extreme emotional disturbance may have been present when there is a reasonable explanation or excuse for offender's the behavior. For example, if you come home and find your spouse in bed with his or her lover and then you kill the lover, you may be able to claim that you acted under an extreme emotional disturbance. Whether or not your actions were reasonable given the circumstances is determined from the point of view of a person in the defendant's situation under the circumstances as the defendant believed them to be.

The Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter

A separate but related crime is involuntary manslaughter. In Kentucky, illegal killings that occur without malice are broken up into the two separate crimes of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. The main difference between these two crimes is whether or not the killing was done intentionally.

Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing where the killer didn't previously intent to kill the victim (for example heat of passion killing). On the other hand, involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing that results from either criminal or reckless negligence. Both of these crimes lack malice but can be differentiated from each other by determining whether or not the offender intended to kill, or cause serious bodily harm, to the victim or not.

Additional Resources

If you have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Kentucky contact a local criminal defense lawyer.

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