Massachusetts Manslaughter Laws

What Is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?

The charge of manslaughter involves unlawfully killing another person, but it is a less serious charge than murder. Manslaughter can be either voluntary or involuntary. The element of “malice” differentiates murder from manslaughter. The crimes of first-degree murder and second-degree murder each require that the defendant acted with “malice.” To sustain a conviction for manslaughter the government does not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with “malice.”

What Constitutes Voluntary Manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter means that the unlawful killing was intentional. To convict a defendant of this crime, the prosecutor must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Firstly, she must prove that the defendant injured the victim in a manner likely to cause the victim’s death. Secondly, she must prove that the injury did cause the victim’s death. Lastly, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant acted unlawfully. “Unlawfully” means that the defendant had no excuse for his actions. One example of an excuse is self-defense.

What Constitutes Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter means that the unlawful killing was done unintentionally. In order to convict a defendant of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Firstly, she must prove that the defendant killed the victim unlawfully but unintentionally. Again, “unlawfully” means that there was no excuse for the defendant’s conduct. The “unintentionally” part of this element requires that the prosecutor prove that the defendant intended to commit the act that caused the death, but she does not need to prove that the defendant intended to cause the death. Secondly, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant’s conduct was wanton or reckless. This means that the defendant conducted himself in a way that he knew or a reasonable person would have known created a strong chance that considerable harm would result to the victim. “Wanton or reckless conduct” also means that the defendant was indifferent to the consequences of his conduct. Even if the defendant did not take any action, a failure to act when there is a duty to do so may satisfy this element. Finally, the prosecutor has to prove that the victim’s death was the result of the wanton or reckless conduct. This means that absent the defendant’s wanton or reckless conduct, the victim would not have died.

What Are the Potential Penalties If Convicted of Manslaughter?

In Massachusetts, the crime of manslaughter is a felony and can only be prosecuted in the superior court. If convicted of manslaughter, a judge can sentence a defendant to anything ranging from probation to a state prison sentence. If you are convicted of manslaughter, you may be punished by twenty years in prison. Given the seriousness of that potential punishment, you should contact a skilled and experienced Massachusetts defense attorney immediately upon being charged. Kathleen McCarthy has nearly thirty years’ experience in successfully defending and prosecuting all manner of violent crimes. She aggressively defends such crimes with the advantage of knowing how the police and district attorneys will handle them. If you have been charged with manslaughter or any other crime, call the Law Offices of Kathleen M. McCarthy at (978)-975-8060 or contact her online today.