Voluntary Manslaughter – California Penal Code section 192

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Everyone facing a murder charge needs to understand as much as possible about California’s homicide law.

That means you need to learn about the crime of manslaughter as defined in California Penal Code section §192 and how it could apply in your case.

If voluntary manslaughter applies, you could receive a lesser sentence than if you were convicted of murder.

California’s homicide law has intricacies that are difficult for most laypersons to fully understand. And mistakes in a murder case can lead to drastic and lifelong consequences.

That is why you need representation from an attorney who has vast experience dealing with the complexities of California’s homicide laws.

Award-winning criminal defense lawyer Kerry L. Armstrong and his team at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, have tremendous experience representing people facing homicide charges.

They are ready to help put you in the best position to defend you and protect your rights.

What Is Manslaughter in California?

Penal Code section 192 defines manslaughter as an unlawful killing of another without malice.

This section also says that manslaughter can be either:

  • Voluntary,
  • Involuntary, or 
  • Vehicular.

Voluntary manslaughter means killing another in a sudden heat of passion or quarrel.

Involuntary manslaughter refers to committing an unlawful act that is not a felony—but has a significant likelihood of producing death.

Vehicular manslaughter refers to driving in a grossly negligent way that kills another or driving in an unlawful manner that does not amount to a felony. 

What Is Passion or Provocation Manslaughter?

Some people may have heard that manslaughter is a crime of passion. That is not entirely accurate.

Voluntary manslaughter can happen upon a sudden quarrel, imperfect self-defense, or in the heat of passion. 

A sudden quarrel means what it sounds like: a disagreement erupts without the accused entering the situation with the intent to start a fight.

Instead, your actions were an impulsive response to a spontaneous conflict.

Imperfect self-defense is a mistaken or unreasonable but genuine belief that you had to defend yourself or others in a physical confrontation.

In other words, the prosecutor could bring a manslaughter charge if you killed someone because you thought you had the right to act in self-defense, but you were mistaken. 

Heat of passion refers to killing in circumstances where a reasonable person would be provoked to anger or impulsivity.

In this sense, heat of passion is a defense to murder because manslaughter is a lesser-included offense of murder.

A common example of heat of passion is finding your spouse in bed with someone else and then killing one or both of them out of impulsive rage. 

How Many Years in Prison for Manslaughter?

A manslaughter sentence in California varies depending on which theory of manslaughter you were charged under.

For instance, a voluntary manslaughter sentence could be either 3, 6, or 11 years.

An involuntary manslaughter sentence ranges between two to four years. The sentence for vehicular manslaughter depends on how the fatal crash occurred. 

As you can see, the punishment for manslaughter could send you to prison for a long time.

However, it is typically much less time than would be served for a murder conviction.

Charged with Murder? Know Your Options

Contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, today to learn more about your options.

Your best defense might be arguing that you are guilty of manslaughter under Penal Code section 192.

Call us today at 619-391-2450 to learn how our award-winning defense lawyers can help.

Kerry L. Armstrong is one of the few criminal defense attorneys who hold a certification issued by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization in criminal defense.

We are here to offer you the support and aggressive advocacy you deserve. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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