Manslaughter - Voluntary

From Criminal Defense Wiki
Jump to navigationJump to search


Voluntary manslaughter is an act of murder that is reduced to manslaughter because of extenuating circumstances.[1] This charge is also known as manslaughter in the first degree, unintentional murder, or intentional manslaughter.

Model Penal Code

Under the Model Penal Code section 210.3, voluntary manslaughter is homicide which would otherwise be murder that is committed under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance for which there is reasonable explanation or excuse. The Code uses a reasonable person standard to determine the validity of the alleged explanation or excuse. Voluntary manslaughter, like involuntary manslaughter, is a second degree felony.[2]

Variation by Jurisdiction

New York

The New York Penal Code addresses voluntary manslaughter under the heading of manslaughter in the first degree. There are four ways that a person can commit voluntary manslaughter. First, an individual, with only the intent to cause serious physical injury to another, can cause the death of that other person.[3] A person can also be guilty of first degree manslaughter when, with intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person under mitigating circumstances (i.e. extreme emotional disturbance).[4] An abortion after 24 weeks that results in the death of the mother can be a form of manslaughter in the first degree.[5] And finally recklessly endangering a minor under the age of 11, which results in the death of the child, is manslaughter.[6] Manslaughter in the first degree is a class B felony.


The Maryland Criminal Code does not explicitly distinguish between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Under section 2-207, manslaughter is a felony that is punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years or imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine not exceeding $500 USD.[7]

Foreign Jurisdictions


Manslaughter is a common law offense in Australia, meaning that it is governed by case law rather than by statute. There are three main categories of voluntary manslaughter: 1) unlawful dangerous act 2) criminal negligence and 3) battery manslaughter. The rule for an unlawful dangerous act requires three elements: i) the defendant's act must be the cause of the victim's death ii) the act must be unlawful and iii) the act must be dangerous. Manslaughter involving criminal negligence can involve either an act or omission. In order to convict a person for manslaughter due to criminal negligence, the court primarily look at negligent conduct with a high risk of death. The final category, battery manslaughter, is when a person commits a battery that results in the death of victim.[8]


The Canadian Criminal Code defines manslaughter as culpable homicide that is not murder or infantcide.[9] Murder may be reduced to manslaughter when the defendant who committed the act did so in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation.[10] Any person who commits manslaughter is punishable by life imprisonment. However, if manslaughter is committed with a firearm, there is also a minimum punishment for imprisonment for four years.[11]

See Crimes


  1. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009)
  2. Model Penal Code, § 210.3 (2001)
  3. New York Penal Code, Title H , § 125.15(1) (2009)
  4. New York Penal Code, Title H , § 125.15(2) (2009)
  5. New York Penal Code, Title H , § 125.15(3) (2009)
  6. New York Penal Code, Title H , § 125.15(4) (2009)
  7. Maryland Criminal Code, § 2-207 (2002)
  9. Canadian Criminal Code, § 234 (2010),
  10. Canadian Criminal Code, § 232(2010),
  11. Canadian Criminal Code, § 236 (2010),