Manslaughter Defense under Pennsylvania Law

Manslaughter Defense under Pennsylvania Law

Manslaughter Defense Under Pennsylvania Law

Explaining Manslaughter

Manslaughter is criminal homicide that can fall into one of two types of categories in the state of Pennsylvania: involuntary manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter. Both of these are the lowest murder charges available in the state. Voluntary manslaughter means at the time of killing, one is acting under sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation. That provocation could have been initiated by another person whom the defendant tried to kill, but accidentally caused the death of another individual. Typically, whatever provoked the actor must be something that would cause a passionate or emotional response within a reasonable person. It is always best to consult a manslaughter defense lawyer before trying to establish any manslaughter defense on your own.

Manslaughter Defense

Attorneys go through intensive education to obtain the understanding of forming legal defenses. Forming your own legal defense is possible, but without in-depth knowledge of the court process, how to interview witnesses, or knowledge about selecting a jury, you could be severely hurting your chances of performing well at a trial. This is a crime that can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Therefore, it is important to make sure you put forward your best legal defense.

There are two primary defenses to manslaughter charges. The first is whether the person was killed in self-defense or from battered women’s syndrome. If an actor could show that (s)he was in fear for his/her life or the life of another and immediate action had to be taken to halt that fear, then the killing may be justified. An example is someone breaking into your house with a gun and you taking action to kill them before that person kills you. A secondary defense is an accidental killing without any criminal intent on the part of the actor while engaging in lawful activity. An example of this type of defense is a baseball player hitting a ball and accidentally killing another player on the field. He was engaging in a lawful activity in which the victim was accidentally killed, but there was no criminal intent by the player.


As a first-degree felony, voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. However, there is also a minimum sentence for defendants who have two violent convictions. In the event of a third violent offense, there is a minimum required prison sentence of 25 years, and the judge can increase the sentence to life without the possibility of parole if deemed necessary for the public’s safety.

Next Steps

If you have been charged, or believe you may be charged with manslaughter, it is important to contact a manslaughter defense lawyer as soon as possible. Any delay can be harmful to your case and result in loss of fresh memories of possible witnesses. Consult the lawyers at Mazzoni Karam Petorak and Valvano so we can put together the best possible defense to combat your charge.

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