What are the Different Types of Manslaughter Defense?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 January 2020
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Manslaughter is a criminal charge that accuses a suspect of being responsible for the death of another person without malice or intent to kill. Though less severe than a murder charge, manslaughter is nonetheless a serious accusation that result in fines, jail time, and other forms of restitution. There are several types of manslaughter defense that can be pled to avoid a conviction; these type of manslaughter defense allowed may change based on the circumstances of the crime and the defense forms allowed by the region.

Self defense is one form of manslaughter defense that can often be used as a mitigating factor. If a person acted out of a reasonable belief that his or her life was in danger, the incident may be ruled as self defense. An example of manslaughter by self defense might be a woman who is being beaten by her husband hitting him with a heavy object that results in internal damage and his death. In this situation, it could be argued that the woman was merely acting out of self defense.


In some regions, such as California, an act leading to death must be deemed either illegal or unreasonable in order to qualify for a manslaughter charge. If a defendant can be shown to have acted both legally and reasonably, they may be acquitted of the charges, even though a death resulted from the action. For instance, if a person driving a car swerves to miss a child in the road, hitting a tree and killing a passenger in the car, this may be regarded as an tragic accident rather than manslaughter as the driver did not act illegally and made a reasonable choice under the circumstances. If, however, the driver was intoxicated, he or she could be charged with manslaughter.

Another manslaughter defense that may be allowed in some areas is one of insufficient evidence. Criminal courts generally require that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than simply based on probability. Since manslaughter deals with intent and situations that are already gray areas, it is easily possible for incorrect assumptions to be made in absence of clear evidence. This defense does not necessarily mean that the defendant did not bring about the death of another in a reckless or illegal manner, simply that there is not enough evidence to conclusively prove the case.

Most criminal courts will accept a manslaughter defense of false accusation, although this may be difficult to prove. In a false accusation defense, the attorney asserts that the defendant has been wrongly accused of the crime by an individual or prosecuting body. False accusations do occur, especially if one person is attempting to cover up involvement in a death by putting the blame on a third party. A manslaughter defense of false accusation may also be related to insufficient evidence claims.


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