Manslaughter is generally defined as an unlawful killing of another person without malice. In contrast, first-degree murder is the killing of another human being through a willful, deliberate, and premeditated act. Generally, malice is involved in first-degree murder crimes. It is defined as having intent to kill, a reckless disregard for human life, or an evil motive. In West Virginia, the crime of manslaughter is divided between voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. However the Mountain State's manslaughter laws do not specifically define voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
Generally speaking, voluntary manslaughter is understood to mean a killing which occurs in the heat of passion with great provocation and without malice. A common example used is when a person comes home to find his or her spouse cheating with another person in their bedroom. In the heat of passion, while enraged by the discovery, the person takes out a knife and stabs the spouse to death.
Conversely, involuntary manslaughter is generally understood to mean a killing which occurs through reckless behavior or from criminal negligence. An example of this type of killing is a scuba instructor who leads his beginner diving class to an area which he knows to be infested with hungry sharks. One of the unknowing students ends up surrounded by sharks and is instantly eaten alive. The scuba instructor may be found to have acted recklessly or with criminal negligence and may be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Although manslaughter is a lesser crime than murder, it still has steep penalties. The following is a quick summary of West Virginia's voluntary manslaughter law.
West Virginia Voluntary Manslaughter Law
The following table outlines West Virginia's voluntary manslaughter law.
||W. VA. CODE § 61-2-4
Although not specifically outlined in West Virginia's manslaughter statute, voluntary manslaughter is generally considered to mean an unlawful killing of another person, without malice, while acting in the heat of passion and under great provocation.
||Voluntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The death was an accident and the person was acting lawfully, with usual and ordinary caution, and without any unlawful intent.
West Virginia Voluntary Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources
Although the crime of manslaughter is not as serious as murder, it should not be taken lightly. If you or someone you know has been charged with manslaughter, you may want to contact an experienced West Virginia criminal defense attorney for assistance. You may also want to read Findlaw's sections on Voluntary Manslaughter Overview, Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses, and Voluntary Manslaughter Penalties and Sentencing for more articles and information on this topic.