When someone takes the life of another individual, it is the
violent crime of homicide by definition but either murder or manslaughter by circumstance.
When there appears to be malicious intent and planning leading up to the
homicidal act, the charges will call it murder. When there appears to
be intent that is not malicious and no forward-thinking beforehand, the
charges will be for voluntary manslaughter, the most common “crime
of passion” in the California State criminal justice system.
What Makes a Crime Passionate?
As the unofficial name of voluntary manslaughter implies, a crime of passion
is one that erupts suddenly due to uncontrolled emotions, or during the
heat of the moment. As the media tends to portray, a crime of passion
often occurs when a lover feels betrayed, feelings of anger and jealousy
sparking unexpected violence. Without any plotting and without any lasting
malice, a quarrel becomes deadly.
In a voluntary manslaughter case, the defense will need to show that the
accused had been reasonably provoked by the victim, causing them to lose
control of their actions and lose sight of the consequences. Provocation
generally must go beyond taunting, threats, and insults but instead involve
something that would enrage a reasonable person, such as having an affair
with their spouse or malevolently destroying their highly valued property.
They must also have acted immediately upon full provocation. The law mandates
that if there was a “cooling period” between a previous nonphysical
altercation and the act of homicide that followed, the charge will be
murder. While this “cooling period” is somewhat vague by legal
standards, it can be assumed that if the established timeline shows that
the aggressor had time to separate themselves from the victim, premeditation
has occurred, warranting a murder charge.
Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter Charges
While claiming that a homicidal act was a crime of passion is a defense
against murder charges, it is important for the defendant to also defend
themselves against the consequences of voluntary manslaughter. Defenses
may include claiming self-defense or the defense of another, even if it
can be shown that there was never a threat of death or serious injury
from the victim, or unintentionally becoming intoxicated to the point
of complete loss of self-control. With the right defense strategy, it
may be possible for the defendant to both admit that they killed another
person during a crime of passion and have their charges dropped or reduced.
If you would like to learn more about crimes of passion defenses for your
own homicide case in Southern California,
contact our Riverside criminal defense lawyers from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. We have more than 50 years
of combined legal experience and offer
free case evaluations. Schedule yours today.