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Understanding voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges

On Behalf of | May 14, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

When someone is accused of a violent crime that ends in another person’s death, prosecutors often charge them with more than one type of offense and let the jury sort out which is most appropriate given the circumstances.

This can be particularly true with manslaughter cases. Unlike murder, manslaughter is defined in New Mexico law as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice” or any kind of premeditation or planning.

Voluntary manslaughter

In layman’s terms, voluntary manslaughter means that you didn’t plan to kill anybody, but something suddenly drove you to take action and they died. It could have been a sudden fight or a “heat of the moment” type of event. Conviction is a third-degree felony and can be punished with up to six years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Involuntary manslaughter

Considered the lesser of the two charges, this essentially means that you never intended to kill anybody – and may not even have meant to hurt them Yet it happened.

You can be charged with involuntary manslaughter when you caused a death while committing a crime that wasn’t a felony. For example, you might have accidentally knocked someone over while committing petty theft, and they died because they hit their head on a hard object.

You can also be charged with this crime for acting in a reckless manner or in any other way that is unlawful. For example, a “gender reveal” party gone wrong, where badly aimed explosives lead to a guest’s death, could result in this charge. Involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony and can be punished by up to $5,000 in fines and 18 months in prison.

Whatever the charges against you, the situation is serious. Make sure you fully understand your rights and options before you decide what to do next.