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Manslaughter: Penalties and Defenses

In part one of this series, we defined the difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Now, we will discuss the penalties you could face for this charge, and we will offer defenses you can use in court.

Manslaughter Penalties in South Carolina

Involuntary Manslaughter

This is a Class F felony, the lowest of the state’s felony charges. If convicted, you face up to 5 years in prison.

Voluntary Manslaughter

The state designates this charge a Class A felony, putting it in the same category as murder. If convicted, you face between 2 and 30 years in prison.

The severity of your punishment depends on the nature of the crime. If a violent act is particularly brutal, for instance, the court is likely to rule for a longer sentence.

Manslaughter Defenses

Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty. It is the prosecution’s job to prove, beyond all doubt, that you are guilty of a crime. There is no allegation that is indefensible. If you are facing manslaughter charges, here are some defenses you can use in court.

There Was No Negligence Involved

Remember, manslaughter involves someone directly committing a negligent or harmful act. Imagine you work in a kitchen with many other cooks. Food and liquids move at a rapid pace all around you. In the hectic bustle of your work, your hands are not as dry as you believe. You make a gesture, and your knife slips from your hand, hitting someone else, and killing them.

This situation is horrific, but it is not manslaughter. It is a tragic accident that could happen to anyone. To prove manslaughter, the prosecution must claim that there was a willful throwing of the knife, which simply isn’t the case. Accidents are not the same as gross negligence, and they do not warrant criminal penalties.

You Acted in Self-Defense

Imagine you are being attacked and overpowered by someone twice your size. You simply want to get away, but they restrain you. Suddenly, you notice an opening, and you push your assailant off. As you make your escape, they lose their footing, fall over, hit their head on the floor, and die. This is a clear case where you meant no harm. The push was simply an attempt to flee the situation, and the death was a complete accident.

self-defense can be more direct. According to South Carolina’s stand-your-ground laws, you have the right to stand and fight rather than retreat. If you truly believe your life is in danger, you may respond with equal force, even if you later discover that you were not actually under attack.

Challenge the Evidence

It cannot be repeated enough: Manslaughter involves a willfully negligent or harmful act. Imagine you are accused of killing someone while speeding. Perhaps you did lose control of the car, and someone was unfortunately killed as a result. However, you know you were obeying traffic laws. It was a rainy night, and you simply lost traction on the road.

No one is disputing that the death occurred, but the prosecution must prove that your behavior was negligent. By directly attacking their evidence, you can prove that their claim is incorrect. You were not speeding, and your actions were not negligent.

Our firm is ready to help you fight back against unfounded manslaughter claims. For a free consultation, call us today at (803) 938-4952 or contact us online.