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What Is the Legal Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter?

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What Is the Legal Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter?


Understanding the difference between different legal terms can be confusing, especially if you’re not a legal professional. For instance, people assume that manslaughter is any accidental killing, so they may be confused by a term like “voluntary manslaughter.”

Let’s take a closer look at both forms of manslaughter to help you better understand the legal differences between them.

Defining Voluntary Manslaughter

Essentially, in a voluntary manslaughter charge, there is an intent to harm someone but not necessarily an intent to kill.

A common example of voluntary manslaughter would be a case where a person finds their spouse in bed with another individual. In the heat of the moment, this person allegedly beats them both to death. The killer means to cause harm, but they act from a sudden and intense emotional response. They may realize the extent of the damage they are inflicting during the onslaught. A court could determine that the incident was not premeditated and charge them with voluntary manslaughter.

Defining Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is causing the death of another person through reckless or negligent behavior. In essence, the offender was doing something they should not have been doing, and someone else died as a result.

To be clear, accidental death is not the same thing as manslaughter. For example, suppose a driver is traveling within the speed limit and following all traffic rules. Suddenly, a pedestrian appears from between parked cars, and the driver is unable to stop in time. The driver's actions are not intentionally harmful, nor are they negligent. Therefore, the driver should not be accused of manslaughter.

Examples of involuntary manslaughter include:

  • Mishandling a weapon
  • Driving under the influence
  • Leaving a child unattended in a dangerous situation

Penalties for Voluntary Manslaughter in Nevada

In the state, voluntary manslaughter is a Category B felony punishable by 2 – 15 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

If the victim is a police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel, the penalty is a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

The court may also order the offender to pay restitution to the victim's family or other dependents. These fine covers the costs of the death, such as funeral expenses or medical bills.

Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter in Nevada

Involuntary manslaughter is a Category D felony in the state, punishable by 1 -4 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Once again, penalties increase when the victim is a firefighter, police officer, or emergency medical services worker. The penalty will increase to a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 20 years in prison, but the fine remains at $5,000.

If the offender used a deadly weapon with no intent to kill, they could face an additional consecutive sentence of 1 to 20 years in prison.

The court can also order financial restitution for the victim's family, just as it would in a voluntary manslaughter charge.

Law Offices of Kenneth A. Stover is here to help defend you against a manslaughter charge. If you are facing these accusations, contact us for a free consultation. You can call us at (775) 502-1575 or contact us online.

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