If you’ve ever watched courtroom dramas, you have seen someone who killed someone else brought to trial. When you hear the legal jargon in the show, the nuances of the charges being brought may or may not be something you reflect on. As it turns out, causing someone’s death has terms, and within those terms are varying degrees of severity. In this post, we will discuss manslaughter.

What is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter is the crime of killing someone without premeditation. This means you didn’t have what is called malice aforethought, which is the intent to harm or kill someone or having a reckless disregard for their life. In terms of morality, the lack of intention beforehand means that manslaughter is seen as less severe than first-degree murder.

Manslaughter is still an umbrella term, and has varying degrees of severity and categories that define what kind of punishment will be sought after in the courts. A manslaughter charge in Sarasota County Florida is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

The Degrees of Manslaughter

Manslaughter is broken up into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree. 

  • 1st Degree – First degree manslaughter occurs when someone intends to injure someone severely. Instead of solely hurting them, the injuries cause death.
  • 2nd Degree – Second degree manslaughter occurs when someone is acting recklessly and aware of their potentially fatal actions. Instead of stopping, they continue with their reckless acts, and this leads to another person’s death.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter 

Manslaughter is also broken up into two major categories – voluntary and involuntary.    

What is Voluntary Manslaughter?  

Voluntary manslaughter is committed when someone commits an intentional act that is neither excusable or justified and that act leads to the death of another person. This category of manslaughter also include  not physically killing another person, but causing their death by persuading another party to do something that causes them to die. If you commit the act yourself, it is called Manslaughter by Act. If you persuade someone else’s actions, it is called Manslaughter by Procurement. Both are considered voluntary manslaughter.           

Elements of Voluntary Manslaughter

Under the law, many crimes have multiple elements that must be met. Without satisfaction of these elements, the person on trial will not be convicted of that particular crime. The charges may be lessened to something less severe, but the elements must always be met. 

When it comes to voluntary manslaughter, there are three elements:
  1. There must be a sudden, unexpected event that serves as provocation
  2. The provocation must result in anger that is temporary and severe. It is also known as the heat of passion. This emotion results in an action.
  3. The action must be the cause of the person’s death.

How is Voluntary Manslaughter Punished?

If you are charged and found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, it is prosecuted as a second degree felony. In Florida, this means that there can be a prison sentence of up to 15 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. While the prison time can vary, there is a mandatory minimum if you are found guilty. The mandatory minimum prison sentence is 9 ¼ years.  

With voluntary manslaughter there is an additional caveat if the person killed is a child or elderly person. This is considered aggravated manslaughter and is a higher offense. It is considered a first degree felony, which in turn can increase the prison sentence to 30 years.

What is Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter involved culpable negligence. Culpable negligence is the disregard for human life while acting in a reckless or wanton way. This can occur if you are doing something such as recklessly handling a weapon or doing another activity where it is well known that reckless actions could lead to death.

Involuntary manslaughter also covers another kind of death: death as a result of self-defense or defense of another person. If excessive force is used during the defense and it leads to death, it is considered involuntary manslaughter. An example of this is if you are being attacked with fists and you pull out a gun, you are using a force more exercise than you are being attacked with. The prosecution will look to see if you reasonably believed that the defense was necessary. If it was not, you could get charged with involuntary manslaughter. 

Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter

In order to get convicted of involuntary manslaughter, there are two elements that need to be satisfied.

  1. You acted with culpable negligence.
  2. The act resulted in a person’s death.

How is Involuntary Manslaughter Punished?

Involuntary manslaughter has a few tiers of punishment if you are convicted.

  • Up to 15 years in prison
  • Up to 15 years of probation
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Similarly to voluntary manslaughter, if it is aggravated, meaning the person killed was elderly or a child, the punishment is more severe. 

DUI Manslaughter

There is another type of manslaughter that we have not touched upon – DUI manslaughter, which is sometimes known as vehicular manslaughter.

What is DUI Manslaughter?

DUI manslaughter is when someone is killed as a result of someone operating a vehicle when they are not sober. It is a crime that does not need intent in order for conviction.

Elements of DUI Manslaughter

To be convicted of DUI manslaughter, there are four elements that must be satisfied.
  1. You must be the person operating or controlling a vehicle;
  2. While you were operating or controlling the vehicle, you killed another person or unborn child that was capable of living outside of the womb. 
  3. Your ability to operate the vehicle in a safe manner was impaired by the influence of alcohol or drugs or your blood alcohol level was at or above .08% – the legal limit.
  4. The death of the person was caused by your operation of the car.

How is DUI Manslaughter Punished?

DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony. Similarly to voluntary manslaughter conviction, it is punishable with up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.


Within the umbrella of manslaughter, there are varying degrees and severities. Each one requires different elements to convict and is punished differently. If you are charged with manslaughter, having an experienced Sarasota county criminal defense lawyer to defend your case in court can help.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges and needs the services of an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney, contact Michael Fayard, Attorney at Law at 434 S Washington Blvd Ste. 200, Sarasota, FL 34236, or schedule an appointment via phone at (941) 306-1310.