Pennsylvania courts dole out their harshest punishments for the most egregious of all offenses: the unlawful killing of another human being. Under state law, unlawful killings can result in several different charges. If the killing occurs with malicious intent, then the accused is charged with homicide. Vehicular homicide, assisting someone in the commission of suicide, and the drug delivery resulting in death all fall under special statutes in Pennsylvania. Most all other unlawful deaths are considered manslaughter.
Because the stakes are so high for defendants in murder and manslaughter cases, they require expert and aggressive representation. Our homicide/manslaughter charges lawyer has the experience and knowledge to review the elements of your case and devise the best possible defense with a goal of acquittal of the charges against you.
Homicide vs. Manslaughter
Pennsylvania law considers criminal homicide to the intentional, knowing, the reckless or negligent killing of another person. Homicide convictions in Pennsylvania result in one of two potential outcomes: prison (up to life in prison) or the death penalty.
Manslaughter is similar to murder but lacks the element of intent. In a criminal homicide case, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the offense with a guilty state of mind known as culpability and malice—and they must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. There is a lessened requirement of culpability in manslaughter cases. Oftentimes, prosecutors who have a weak case for homicide will offer the defendant a plea deal if they plead down to a manslaughter charge.
Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter
Manslaughter can be voluntary or involuntary. The act of voluntary manslaughter is the intentional and knowing killing that lacks malicious intent; in other words, the killing is not justified, but it is understandable. This type of manslaughter might occur when a husband walks in on his wife while she’s with another man and becomes so enraged that he kills her or her romantic liaison. In Pennsylvania, a voluntary manslaughter charge can result in up to 20 years of incarceration and $25,000 in fines. Involuntary manslaughter is a lesser charge and consists of killings caused by reckless or gross negligence. Those convicted of involuntary manslaughter face up to 10 years in jail and $25,000 in fines.
Keep in mind that a few special forms of manslaughter often play out in the courts. One of these is the delivery of a controlled substance that results in the death of another person, such as when someone sells drugs to a person who dies from their use. A conviction of manslaughter in this case may come with a prison sentence of up to 40 years. Another example is DUI-related vehicular homicide, punishable by three years minimum prison time.