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North Carolina Criminal Law 14-18: Voluntary Manslaughter Not Involving Self-Defense

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Manslaughter Homicide is broadly defined as the criminal, wrongful death of another human being. It normally requires an unlawful killing and a deliberate act. Manslaughter charges in North Carolina often focus on the mens rea and/or intent to commit an act that leads to death of another.

Manslaughter is a Common Law offense with less criminal culpability than Murder. North Carolina recognizes legal distinctions between Voluntary Manslaughter and Involuntary Manslaughter. By charging the offense of Manslaughter, rather than Murder, the State concedes there is no element or evidence of malice.

Charges involving proof of heat of passion, and the intentional killing of the victim, are subject to prosecution as Voluntary Manslaughter. The unintentional killing of another would normally be prosecuted as Involuntary Manslaughter.

Charges pursuant to North Carolina Criminal Law 14-18 Voluntary Manslaughter is a serious felony offense that is classified as a Class D Felony and subject to an active term of imprisonment in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections.

The State of North Carolina must prove the prima facie elements of Voluntary Manslaughter Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, establishing:

  1. The Defendant killed another human being
  2. Intentional Unlawful Act and/or Criminally Negligent Act
  3. The Defendant’s Act was a proximate cause of the death

Voluntary Manslaughter does not require intent to kill as an essential element of the offense. The intentional and unlawful act regarding an “intentional killing” does not relate to a specific intent to kill.

Instead, the Act resulting in death is intentional. It amounts to a felony assault (battery) and/or is likely to cause serious bodily injury to the victim or death.

Acts committed in the heat of passion, which are sudden and provoked may be prosecuted as Voluntary Manslaughter. Self-defense, imperfectly exercised or with excessive force, may also be subject to Voluntary Manslaughter prosecution.

Voluntary Manslaughter differs from Involuntary Manslaughter in North Carolina, in that the Act committed, be it unintentional or intentional, is not a felony offense.

The term of art, “A Proximate Cause” differs from “The Proximate Cause,” possesses substantive meaning. “A Proximate Cause” is defined as a real cause un the victim’s death.

Foreseeability, by a reasonably prudent and careful person, is a consideration. The Act committed by the Defendant be the sole proximate cause or the cause most closely related to serious injury or death. A proximate cause requires only an Act that, in combination with and acting act the same time, caused the death.

2. Example

The classic example of a “heat of passion” homicide involves a spouse coming home and catching their husband or wife engage in sexual activity with another. In a provoked fit of rage, she or he kills their spouse and the other cheating party.

There exists no premeditation or deliberation or “malice aforethought.” The act of killing is intentional, brought on provocation and/or in the “heat of passion.”

3. Related Offenses
  1. Second Degree Murder
  2. Involuntary Manslaughter
  3. Felonious assault with Deadly Weapon with Intent to Kill or Inflicting Serious Injury
  4. Misdemeanor Assault, Battery, and Affray
4. Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter  Manslaughter

Traditional Common Law Defenses and “Necessity Defenses” are available to Voluntary Manslaughter charges including:

  1. Self Defense
  2. Defense of Others
  3. Defense of Property
  4. Insanity
  5. Lack of Proximate Cause
  6. Accident or Misadventure
5. Penalties

Voluntary Manslaughter is a Class D Felony in North Carolina, with a maximum period of incarceration of 204 months in the Department of Adult Corrections (DAC). Involuntary Manslaughter is a Class E Felony. An active prison term is indicated within the Felony Sentencing Guidelines, even with no prior record or criminal history.

The Judgment may also include Costs of Court, Fines, Restitution, and a civil judgment associated with restitution and court appointed counsel, as may be appropriate. Upon a conviction of a felony offense, gun ownership is prohibited in North Carolina.

6. Criminal Defense for Voluntary Manslaughter Cases

If you have been accused of homicide or are under investigation for Voluntary Manslaughter, it’s imperative to seek legal guidance without delay.

Prior to speaking with law enforcement or providing a statement, exercise your 5th Amendment Right to remain silent. Politely request to speak with an attorney.

Asserting Constitutional Rights cannot be used against you as evidence of guilt or used as a legal basis for additional/worse punishment.

Bill Powers is a Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney with substantial experience handling felony homicide charges including Murder, Manslaughter, and Felony Death by Vehicle.

He is also a Board-Certified Criminal Law Specialist by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC) / National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) and former President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

For more information about Voluntary Manslaughter Charges in North Carolina, and to schedule a confidential, free consultation, contact Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyer Bill Powers at the Powers Law Firm PA.

Call NOW: 704-342-4357.

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