West Chester

Manslaughter Attorney

If someone accused you of causing another person’s death, even if your alleged conduct was not premeditated, you need to call a manslaughter attorney now. Whether or not you have been arrested or indicted by a grand jury, you need to work with a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense lawyer with an extensive history defending violent crimes will be critical to investigating the allegations, the evidence, and the actions of the police. With a long prison sentence at stake, you need to build a strong defense and pursue the best possible outcome.

If you are charged or being investigated for manslaughter in or around Chester County, PA, contact attorney Michael J. Skinner. As a former Chester County prosecutor, he knows how manslaughter cases are built and where to look for faults. He may find evidence that will lead to dropping or reducing the charges, or a pretrial dismissal. If your case is not resolved before trial, having a veteran trial lawyer will be invaluable in fighting for a favorable verdict, acquittal, or a reduced sentence. Contact us online or call Skinner Law Firm at (610) 436-1410 to schedule your free, confidential consultation.

Manslaughter in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania manslaughter law is defined in the criminal homicide statute (18 PA Cons Stat §2501). You can be charged with voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter if you intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligent cause another person’s death. The exact facts of your case determine which type of manslaughter charges the prosecutor will pursue against you.

Manslaughter is the willful or reckless killing of another. However, there are distinct and significant differences between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary manslaughter requires you to have acted under a sudden and intense passion due to provocation. Involuntary manslaughter requires you to have acted recklessly.

The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

Manslaughter, inherently, does not include premeditation. It is not intentional in the sense that it is not something you planned prior to the event.

Murder is the intentional killing of another person under 18 PA Cons Stat §2502, or the killing of another person during or after the commission of a felony. Under Pennsylvania law, an intentional killing means killing by poison, lying in wait, or another kind of willful, deliberate, or premeditated killing.

If you are arrested regarding an individual’s death, a manslaughter attorney can explain Pennsylvania homicide law and the charges you may face depending on the facts. If the prosecutor originally charges you with murder or voluntary manslaughter, we may strive to have the charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter.

Types of Manslaughter in Pennsylvania

If you are accused of causing a person’s death in circumstances other than a premeditated, intentional, or felony-related death, a prosecutor may charge you with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter (18 PA Cons Stat §2503)

A prosecutor can charge you with voluntary manslaughter if you kill an individual without lawful justification, and at the time, you acted under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by:

  • The deceased; or
  • Another person who you endeavored to kill, but you negligently or accidentally caused another person’s death.

To act under a sudden and intense passion, you must have had such strong emotions you were not acting rationally. If prosecutors believe no one provoked you or that you were acting willfully, the prosecutors will pursue murder charges.

This offense encompasses killing someone for an unreasonable belief of justification. A prosecutor will charge you with voluntary manslaughter if you intentionally or knowingly kill an individual, and at the time, believed the circumstances were such that the killing was justified. However, your belief was unreasonable, and you did not have justification.

Voluntary manslaughter is a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania.

Involuntary Manslaughter (18 PA Cons Stat §2504)

A prosecutor can charge you with involuntary manslaughter if a person’s death is the result of an unlawful or lawful act performed in a reckless or grossly negligent matter.

In Pennsylvania, involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor.

However, if the victim was under 12 years old, and was in your care, custody, or control at the time, then the prosecutor will charge you with a second-degree felony.

Manslaughter Sentences in PA

The sentence and penalties you face for a manslaughter conviction is based on the level of the charge, your criminal record, and whether any mitigating or aggravating factors are present. The consequences vary wildly because manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the facts and your state of mind at the time.

  • Involuntary manslaughter as a first-degree misdemeanor. Punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
  • Involuntary manslaughter of a child under 12 years old as a second-degree felony. You can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
  • Voluntary manslaughter as a first-degree felony. You can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

If convicted, the judge will look at the Offense Gravity Score. Voluntary manslaughter has a score of 11. Involuntary manslaughter is a score of six. When involuntary manslaughter involves the death of a child under 12 years or a DUI, it is an eight.

The judge will then add up your Prior Record Score. Every crime in Pennsylvania has a designated prior record score point value. When the points for your prior convictions are totaled, this is your Prior Record Score.

Finally, the judge will look at where the Offense Gravity Score and your Prior Record Score meet on Pennsylvania’s sentencing matrix. This provided the judge with a presumptive sentence.

Manslaughter Defense Strategies

When a prosecutor pursues manslaughter charges, an experienced defense lawyer may argue one or more of the following, depending on the facts of the case:

  • You acted in self-defense or defense of others.
  • The killing was justified under the law.
  • The death was an accident.
  • There has been a mistake of identity, and you are not the culprit.
  • The evidence against is purely circumstantial.
  • Alleged eyewitness testimony is not credible.
  • You were the victim of an unlawful search and seizure, and the resulting evidence should be inadmissible.
  • There is insufficient evidence to prove you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • You are insane due to a mental defect or illness.

You were involuntarily intoxicated due to someone else’s actions.

Call a Manslaughter Attorney

Being accused of causing another person’s death is frightening. Naturally, you are worried a jury may wrongfully convict you of a crime you did not commit or for an accident. You deserve the chance to tell your version. Your best chance of resolving the case in your favor is by working with a highly skilled defense lawyer, with specific experience handling manslaughter cases. Attorney Michael J. Skinner has an extensive history of successfully representing homicide cases in West Chester, Exton, Downingtown, Phoenixville, Wayne, Kennett Square, Oxford, Coatesville, Honey Brook, and across Chester County. Skinner Law Firm is prepared to defend you against any voluntary or involuntary manslaughter charges.

To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us at (610) 436-1410 or online.