Voluntary Manslaughter in Virginia
Manslaughter is the killing of one human being by another, but is not premeditated. In Virginia, voluntary manslaughter is a killing that is intentional but not premeditated, such as a killing committed during mutual combat or a killing committed after being provoked by the victim.
Murder vs. Manslaughter
In Virginia, the difference between murder and voluntary manslaughter is simple. Both involve purposefully killing someone. However, it's voluntary manslaughter if the killer acted when his or her thinking was disturbed by emotional excitement to the point that a reasonable person might have acted on impulse without thinking twice. The killing itself must be the result of the emotional excitement.
This typically happens when a person is acting in self-defense, but overreacts and kills another person. The person technically acted with the intent to kill, but the self defense was "in the heat of passion" so the court will likely find the person guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
The reaction to kill has to happen instantaneously. If the person has had any time to "cool off" before they go perform the killing, it becomes a murder.
Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter Charges
The potential defenses to a voluntary manslaughter charge are similar to the defenses that a defendant might raise for other homicide charges. These include:
- Actual Innocence;
- Self Defense;
- Accidental Killing;
- Intoxication (Intoxication won't usually excuse a person from criminal behavior, unless the intoxication was involuntary).
The following table highlights the main provisions of Virginia's voluntary manslaughter laws. See also Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses, Voluntary Manslaughter Penalties and Sentences, and Involuntary Manslaughter.
||Code of Virginia §18.2-35
"Heat of Passion" Crime
|What is Prohibited?
Voluntary manslaughter is a killing that is intentional but not premeditated, such as a killing committed during mutual combat or a killing committed after being provoked by the victim
||Class 5 felony: imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years or confinement in jail for not more than 12 months, and a possible fine of not more than $2,500.
Being accused of voluntary manslaughter is a serious crime that requires serious commitment from an attorney. Whether or not your situation leads to a trial, the focus should be on establishing facts. Following the right procedure regarding the technical aspects of your case is essential. Therefore, you may want a Virginia lawyer who knows Virginia law. If you do find yourself facing a voluntary manslaughter charge, considering contacting a Virginia criminal defense attorney for assistance.