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North Carolina Voluntary Manslaughter Laws

Voluntary manslaughter refers to an intentional killing resulting from some sort of provocation, often called a "heat of passion" crime. This charge typically is reserved for instances where the defendant acted rashly, under the influence of extreme emotional distress. Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is an accidental killing resulting from criminally negligent or reckless behavior. While states can treat voluntary manslaughter laws differently, North Carolina penalizes the offense (upon conviction) with a minimum of four years in prison.

Voluntary Manslaughter Statutes in North Carolina

The basics of North Carolina voluntary manslaughter laws are listed in the table below.

Code Section

North Carolina General Statutes § 14-18

Definition of the Crime

Any intentional killing in which the offender acted in the heat of passion or in response to provocation (not premeditated or planned)

Classifications / Penalties

Class D felony; 51-64 months in prison


Self-defense; death was an accident (in which case it may be reduced to an involuntary manslaughter charge); insanity; actual innocence

Possible voluntary manslaughter defenses are similar to other homicide defenses, and will vary according to the law of the state they are in and the circumstances of the case. First, a defendant facing a voluntary manslaughter charge could attempt to prove that they didn’t actually commit the crime, by providing an alibi or attacking the credibility of the prosecution’s evidence. A defendant could also concede his or her behavior, but claim that their actions were justified as self-defense. In this case the defendant would need to prove he or she had a reasonable need to use deadly force to protect his or her own life and that there was no bad behavior on his or her part. Finally, a voluntary manslaughter defendant could plead insanity at the time of the homicide.

The possible punishment for voluntary manslaughter depends on a number of factors, most importantly the actual wording of the law that governs in that jurisdiction. Judges are also permitted to consider aggravating and mitigating factors when handing down manslaughter sentences. While mitigating factors might reduce the severity of a punishment, aggravating factors will usually add years or other penalties to a sentence following conviction.

North Carolina Voluntary Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources

Any criminal charge relating to a homicide is extremely serious. If you have been charged with manslaughter or know someone who has, you may want to contact a North Carolina criminal defense attorney in your area discuss your case. You can also visit FindLaw's Homicide section for more introductory information on this topic.

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