North Carolina Manslaughter Defense Lawyer
If you are charged with manslaughter in North Carolina, you face the possibility of spending several years behind bars. If you’ve been charged with this crime, it’s critical that you do everything you can to have the charges dropped or reduced to a lesser offense with a lesser punishment.
You only have one chance to get it right, and to do so, you need the strongest representation possible from a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer like Aden Wilkie. The Wilkie Law Firm prioritizes every attorney-client relationship while providing compassionate and experienced legal services. Call 910-333-9626 to get in touch with a North Carolina manslaughter attorney today.
What is Manslaughter?
Manslaughter is a crime that occurs when someone kills another person without malice aforethought. U.S. law generally considers manslaughter as a less severe crime than murder. There are two types: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
What is Malice Aforethought?
Malice aforethought is sometimes confused with premeditation, which is a type of malice aforethought. Basically, malice aforethought describes:
- Intent to kill someone
- Intent to seriously hurt someone
- Absolute carelessness about human life
- Intent to commit a serious crime which may or may not cause the death of another person
Voluntary Manslaughter vs. Involuntary Manslaughter
The main difference between voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter is the intent, or lack thereof, behind the offense. Voluntary manslaughter is referred to as a “heat of passion” crime because it is essentially an intentional killing that results from some sort of heated conflict. However, this does not mean the crime is premeditated, which is what a murder charge in North Carolina would entail.
In summary, to earn a voluntary manslaughter charge, the defendant must have committed the crime frantically and due to emotional anguish. Meanwhile, involuntary manslaughter refers to an accidental killing that is caused by criminal negligence or recklessness. This offense is also not premeditated.
What is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter is another type of manslaughter charge, but may also typically fall under involuntary manslaughter. This is because it refers to an accidental killing caused by a car accident. A vehicular manslaughter charge is commonly the result of a driver’s negligence or recklessness on the roads, such as drinking while driving (DWI) or disobeying speeding laws.
Murder Vs. Manslaughter: What’s the Difference?
The main difference between murder versus manslaughter is that murder is generally a crime committed with premeditation and malice aforethought, while manslaughter isn’t. While both voluntary manslaughter and murder may both be intentional, murder is not a heat of passion crime like voluntary manslaughter.
There are a few types of murder charges under U.S. law. These include:
- First Degree Murder: This is the worst degree of murder and one of the most serious crimes a person can commit under U.S. law. In order to receive a first degree murder charge, the case must include both premeditation and intent. This means the suspect must have planned out the crime and intended to kill the victim.
- Second Degree Murder: Still a very serious crime, second degree murder is a crime committed without premeditation, but with malice aforethought. This means the intent behind the act was most commonly to hurt someone, not to kill them.
- Third Degree Murder: Third degree murder is actually a charge that only exists in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The exact elements of third degree murder vary greatly between the three states. Generally, this charge is reserved for those who intended to harm someone, not necessarily kill them. Additionally, third degree murder is not premediated.
- Capital Murder: Capital murder may also sometimes be called aggravated murder in the United States. This is when a person kills a public safety professional on duty, such as a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, etc. Oftentimes, a suspect will earn this charge if the victim was killed during the commission of another felony, such as arson, kidnapping, and armed robbery, to name a few. A person with a capital murder charge may qualify for the death penalty or life imprisonment.
In the state of North Carolina, there are no charges for first degree manslaughter or second degree manslaughter. The only manslaughter charges that the state recognizes are voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and vehicular manslaughter.
Manslaughter Penalties in North Carolina
The penalties for North Carolina manslaughter charges vary depending on whether the offense was voluntary, involuntary, or vehicular. Unlike murder charges, defendants generally won’t receive the death penalty or life imprisonment for manslaughter charges. The penalties can be found in the North Carolina General Statutes § 14-18 and are as follows:
- Voluntary Manslaughter is a Class D felony in North Carolina resulting in 4 to 5 years of jail time.
- Involuntary Manslaughter is a Class F felony in North Carolina resulting in 13 to 16 months of jail time.
- Vehicular Manslaughter is a Class D felony in North Carolina resulting in 3 to 10 years of jail time.
Possible Defenses for Manslaughter
If you’re facing any manslaughter conviction, an experienced criminal defense attorney at Wilkie Law Firm will look carefully at the facts of your manslaughter case and formulate a solid defense. Though the defenses listed below may not clear your name entirely, they could result in much less severe punishments, such as lowering your maximum sentence in state prison.
This defense is complicated in a manslaughter case and may not always produce the best outcome compared to other defenses. There are two types of self-defense claims in murder cases: perfect and imperfect. A perfect claim means that the suspect absolutely needed to use deadly force to protect their life, and therefore excuses them from illegal homicide. Meanwhile, an imperfect claim means that deadly force was unreasonable, unnecessary, or the result of poor behavior. For example, the defendant started a major fight with the victim and the conflict escalated to the point where the defendant felt they needed to use deadly force.
The only self-defense claim that would work in a manslaughter case is a perfect claim. An imperfect claim would essentially be a confession that you committed voluntary manslaughter.
This defense would best work for those charged with involuntary manslaughter. As previously stated, this type of manslaughter charge is generally caused by grossly negligent acts from defendants who didn’t intend to kill anyone. The manslaughter attorneys at Wilkie Law Firm will work to prove that the victim’s death was the result of an accident.
This defense would only work in your favor if you met the legal definition of insanity at the time of the victim’s death. In order to make the insanity defense work, you must meet one or more of these legal standards:
- M’Naghten Rule: The suspect can’t distinguish right from wrong or they can’t understand what they did because of a mental illness.
- Irresistible Impulse Test: The suspect’s mental illness makes them incapable of controlling their actions. Therefore, they could certainly commit a crime, such as causing the death of another human being.
- Model Penal Code Test: The suspect’s mental illness prevents them from understanding how their actions were illegal or criminal.
- Durham Rule: The suspect’s mental illness led to their criminal behavior, even if they’ve never been professionally diagnosed.
All U.S. states use different legal standards for determining insanity. Generally, however, states will just use one of the aforementioned standards. North Carolina specifically uses the M’Naghten Rule. This means, if you meet that standard, the court could drop your manslaughter conviction altogether.
Intoxication generally doesn’t excuse suspects from killing a human being. However, if you were involuntarily intoxicated, a criminal defense lawyer could investigate this and use it to your advantage. In other words, this defense would only work if manslaughter attorneys could prove that you were drugged or inebriated against your will, and that this involuntary intoxication led to either vehicular, voluntary, or involuntary manslaughter.
Perhaps the most obvious defense that a criminal defense attorney could use in your favor is that you didn’t commit the crime at all. In any crime, including those of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, the suspect is innocent until proven guilty. This means that the victim’s legal team must prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If your criminal defense lawyer is able to cast doubt about your guilt by proving that you were in another location at the time of the person’s death (had an alibi) or that the evidence against you is invalid (insufficient evidence), then the jury may acquit.
Call The Manslaughter Attorneys at Wilkie Law Firm Today
If you’re facing a vehicular, voluntary, or involuntary manslaughter charge in North Carolina, it is imperative that you call Aden Wilkie, top Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, as soon as possible. At Wilkie Law Firm, we serve our NC clients by providing a solid criminal defense strategy and unmatched representation for both civilians and military service members in legal trouble. We want to ensure your rights remain protected while working aggressively towards the best possible outcome for your case. Call us today at 910-333-9626 for a consultation.