Voluntary Manslaughter Law and Legal Definition

There are two categories of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter includes killing in heat of passion, in self-defense, or while committing a felony. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a death is caused during the comission of a non-felony, such as reckless driving (called "vehicular manslaughter"). Manslaughter lacks the element of malice necessary to be found guilty of murder.

One court has defined it as "the unlawful killing of another, intentionally caused from a sudden transport of passion or heat of blood:

  1. upon a reasonable provocation and without malice or upon sudden combat; or
  2. from the excessive use of force in self-defense."

Whether a voluntary manslaughter charge will be justifed may depend on whether the provocation that led to the killing occured within a certain period of time prior to the killing, whether a reasonable person would have "cooled off" within that time, and whether the defendant did in fact cool off. Whether the provocation was sufficient to cause a "reasonable" person to react as the defendant did is another question of fact to be determined.

The following is an example of a state statute dealing with manslaughter:

"§ 2903.03. Voluntary manslaughter.

(A) No person, while under the influence of sudden passion or in a sudden fit of rage, either of which is brought on by serious provocation occasioned by the victim that is reasonably sufficient to incite the person into using deadly force, shall knowingly cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another's pregnancy.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, a felony of the first degree."