Manslaughter Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC
Murder is the unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought – the intent to kill with malice is what makes it a murder instead of a justified homicide or manslaughter.
When there is no “malice aforethought,” the verdict could be an acquittal, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter. When there is a valid defense that legally justifies the killing, like self-defense, defense of others, or accident, charges probably should not have been brought at all and a jury can find the defendant not guilty at trial.
What is Manslaughter in South Carolina?
Manslaughter in SC is:
- An unlawful killing;
- Without malice.
Manslaughter charges are further broken down into either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter depending on the facts of the case.
Voluntary manslaughter carries up to 30 years in prison and has a mandatory minimum sentence of two years.
An unlawful killing qualifies as voluntary manslaughter when it happens:
- In the “heat of passion;” and
- After “sufficient legal provocation.”
Heat of passion may be self-explanatory – picture the stereotypical manslaughter case where wife finds husband in bed with another woman and, without taking time to reflect or calm down, starts shooting in a blind rage.
Provocation means any act on the part of the victim that provoked the attack – for example, the victim assaulted the defendant in some way just before the attack (self-defense on the part of the victim does not qualify as sufficient legal provocation).
Although voluntary manslaughter does not require malice, it does require an intent to kill – simple negligence is not enough for a voluntary manslaughter conviction.
Involuntary manslaughter has a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison.
It does not require an intent to kill or even a general criminal intent – it only requires proof of criminal negligence, or a “reckless disregard for the safety of others.” There are two types of involuntary manslaughter in SC, both of which require proof of criminal negligence:
- The defendant killed another person while engaged in an illegal activity that would not ordinarily result in death or great bodily injury; or
- The defendant killed another person while engaged in a lawful activity.
SC Manslaughter Defense Attorney in Charleston
When a person has been charged with murder, but the state cannot prove malice aforethought, if the defendant was criminally negligent jurors can find the defendant guilty of the lesser included offense of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter (the difference is life in prison or a maximum of five years on involuntary manslaughter).
Whether you’ve been charged with homicide or manslaughter in the Charleston, SC or Eastern SC area, get an experienced murder defense lawyer on your side as soon as possible. Call attorney Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.