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Manslaughter

The charge of manslaughter means one has performed an unlawful killing that did not include malice of aforethought. This charge means you did not have an intent to harm or kill the victim, and your actions did not involve extreme or a reckless disregard for the life of the victim.

The difference between murder and manslaughter charges will vary from state to state. Minnesota defines manslaughter as a crime committed due to extreme negligence or passion. If you are facing manslaughter charges, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Contact Ringstrom Law and discover what your legal options are to fight this legal battle.

Minnesota Manslaughter Charges

The State of Minnesota has two classifications for manslaughter; first-degree and second-degree.

First-degree manslaughter

The laws in Minnesota prohibit any intentional killing of another human being. There are, however, some killings that are mitigated from murder charges to manslaughter charges based on circumstances of the crime. Circumstances in the state of Minnesota, which are considered manslaughter in the first-degree include:

  • 'Heat of passion' is a circumstance that involves killing another when provoked by acts or words of someone that is considered a person who is reasonable with ordinary self-control in similar circumstances would also find themselves provoked. In reference to an 'ordinary person,' it would be one that is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even if the accused was
  • If a person has been killed because you've committed fifth-degree assault. This charge means that while attempting to commit or committing a gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor, a physical injury or death occurred and was reasonably foreseeable, but it is not charged as a first or second-degree murder
  • If you have intentionally killed someone because you've been coerced into believing that your actions of killing them are the only way you can prevent your imminent death or the death of another
  • If you have caused the death of someone in an unintentional manner by illegally giving, selling, or administering a Schedule III, IV, or V illegal substance. Examples of these drugs include meth precursors, Darvon, human growth hormones, or ketamine
  • If you have caused the death of a child while attempting or committing malicious punishment to the child. The act is considered intentional and with unreasonable force or cruel discipline, but is not considered first, second, or third-degree murder

The penalty for manslaughter charges in the first-degree under the laws in Minnesota is not more than fifteen years in prison along with a fine up to $30,000 

Second-degree manslaughter

Minnesota statute 609.205 defines second-degree manslaughter as when a person kills another human being under these conditions:

  • Creating a risk that has been deemed unreasonable and consciously taking the chance of causing severe harm to another’s body or death to another human being. This risk is considered culpable negligence
  • Shooting another person with a weapon considered as dangerous or firearm with the excuse of negligently believing the other person to be an animal such as a deer
  • If you have set a pitfall, spring gun, snare or other dangerous devices in an area where a human being has fallen victim to its danger
  • If you have intentionally or negligently permitted a vicious animal to run unrestrained after it has caused substantial bodily harm in the past and you know that it is capable of harming again, and it again attacks another
  • If you have attempted to or have successfully committed a violation of section 609.378 which covers the endangerment or neglect of a child, and murder in the first, second, or third-degree is not found to have been committed

The penalty for manslaughter in the second-degree is a prison sentence of up to ten years along with a fine up to $20,000

Defending Manslaughter Charges

A defense strategy for manslaughter charges is much the same as those for homicide charges. If you are facing voluntary manslaughter, it could be proven by your attorney with Ringstrom Law that you are not responsible for this crime, and the actions you took were justified. They can also argue your behavior did not meet the elements necessary for voluntary manslaughter.

When your case is presented in court, your criminal defense attorney from Ringstrom Law will find the appropriate defense strategy according to the laws of Minnesota and the circumstances of your case. These are common defense strategies used against manslaughter charges:

Self-Defense

When pleading self-defense with a manslaughter charge, it works a bit differently then it would work with a murder charge. When a self-defense claim is raised in a murder case, how you defended yourself can either be imperfect or perfect. When it is considered imperfect, it involves an unreasonable belief that you needed to use deadly force against the bad behavior from the victim, yourself, or both. With a perfect claim, there is a reasonable belief you needed to use deadly force to protect yourself or another person, and it involves no wrong-doing on your part.

How these defense strategies work is if you were the aggressive party in the situation, and had to use deadly force to protect yourself or another, the claim will be considered 'imperfect' self-defense. If your case was a murder charge, a 'perfect' self-defense claim typically results in an acquittal, but an 'imperfect' claim would result in a reduction to 'manslaughter' charges. So, the difference between the 'perfect' and 'imperfect' claim is that you cannot use an 'imperfect' self-defense claim in a manslaughter charge. An imperfect self-defense claim, in fact, admits you did commit voluntary manslaughter.

Innocence

If you did not commit the act for which you are being charged, then innocence is the best possible defense against a voluntary manslaughter charge. The prosecution, in your case, will carry the burden of having to prove without any doubt that you are guilty of the charges placed against you. Until the prosecution demonstrates this guilt, you are presumed innocent.

Your attorney at Ringstrom Law can refute the prosecution’s accusations if you have an alibi, or they can attack the truth behind the prosecution’s evidence. Should the jury have any doubt as to your innocence or guilt, they must find you innocent.

Accidental

In homicide cases, it can often be proven the death of the victim occurred as a result of an accident. This proof can then have a homicide charge reduced to a voluntary manslaughter conviction. This means the manslaughter charge has an element of intent involved. If the killing was a result of a 'heat of passion,' you would then have been found to have had an intention to cause severe bodily harm or death with your actions.

Crimes most often require what attorneys call 'mens rea' or 'guilty mind.' What this refers to is your state of mind at the time you committed a crime. Mens rea allows the court or criminal system to determine if someone did not mean to commit a crime, or if they intentionally set out to harm, kill, or commit a crime. 

The court will determine if the crime was carelessness or criminal. Carelessness in the legal world generally results in civil liability. There is a point, however, where general carelessness can become something considered more culpable. When this happens, some criminal statutes have increased negligence standards to a charge of reckless criminal negligence.

Intentional behavior meant to cause harm is considered criminal, but unintentional behavior that becomes harmful can be either ‘mistake of law,’ or ‘mistake of fact.’

Mistake of fact means your behavior falls under the definition of a crime in an objective sense. You may have been acting based on mistaken knowledge is an example of ‘mistake of fact.’

Mistake of law rarely saves you from criminal liability. This behavior falls under the old saying that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. It is the court's belief that by allowing 'mistake of law' as a means for defense against crime would undermine the legal system's effectiveness.

If you commit involuntary manslaughter it is considered a result of reckless or negligent behavior. If you’ve been charged with involuntary manslaughter, it is believed you acted carelessly, but you did not intend to inflict harm or kill anyone. Your attorney at Ringstrom Law will help show the court that the victim’s death was a result of an accident and not an intentional act. Proving this defense might get your charges reduced.

Insanity

If it is proven you are insane or were at the time of the crime, the court will not hold you accountable for your actions. The court will base the insanity defense on your inability to understand your actions and whether you are able to distinguish between right and wrong. Different jurisdictions have varying standards for what is acceptable for an insanity defense, but they all generally fall into one of these categories:

If you are found to be insane at the time of the crime, you have to be found, 'not guilty because of insanity.' The prosecution has to show you had a willful intent to commit the crime; however, if you are found insane, there can be no deliberate intent.

The model penal code test for legal insanity is more flexible than other tests used by the courts. The MPC test determines whether or not you have a relevant mental defect such as schizophrenic disorder or mental disabilities. These conditions would have prevented you from appreciating the criminality of your conduct, and that you are unable to conform your behavior to fit the requirements of the law

The Durham Rule states a defendant cannot be found guilty of a crime if they suffer from a mental defect or disease at the time the crime occurred. This rule does not require a medical diagnosis, and therefore, almost all states have eliminated from the choices available to defendants. This rule is too broad, and the court that does use it has narrowed its interpretation, so only the most serious cases can rely on it.

The M'Naghten Rule is a test that focuses on whether or not a criminal knew what they were doing at the time of their crime. It determines whether the defendant was able to make the distinction of knowing what wrong and right behavior is. When applying this test in court, it must be determined if the 'wrong' in question by the defendant is a legal or moral wrong. Some states have eliminated the criteria by which a defendant can be legally insane because they do not fully understand what they have done.

The Irresistible Impulse Test was created in response to criticisms of M'Naghten Rule. Legal commentators suggested expanding the M'Naghten to include the definition of insanity to have more of a cognitive element. They wanted the test to include not only determining if the defendant knows right from wrong, but determine if they could control their impulses to commit criminal wrong-doing.

In jurisdictions that use or incorporate the Irresistible Impulse Test into their defense strategies require there be sufficient evidence presented, such as:

  • There has to be an existence of mental illness with the defendant

  • The mental illness had the ability to cause one to lose control, or they were not able to conform their actions to the requirements of the law

This test is a challenging defense strategy. You will want experienced legal expertise working with you if this is the path your defense for manslaughter needs to go. Ringstrom Law will advise you on the requirements and discuss whether this defense is an option for your case.

Intoxication

Being intoxicated at the time of any crime, including manslaughter, generally will not be an excuse for criminal behavior. The only time this defense can come into play as a defense strategy is if you were involuntarily drugged against your will. This defense is not effective in a manslaughter charge and is used more in homicide cases where this defense gets charges reduced to manslaughter.

All of these insanity defense categories are a legal challenge to use as a defense against your actions. You will want Ringstrom Law working with you, as someone who has extensive experience in the legal field and understands what is needed for a defense strategy and which will work the best for your case.

Sentencing and Penalties for Manslaughter Charges

If you are convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the court will then hand down your sentencing or punishment, which the federal or state government imposes on you. The sentence you will receive depends on certain factors involved with your case. The primary factor is the legal language of the law, which governs the punishment for manslaughter in the jurisdiction where you are being tried. The Statutes contain single punishments or a range of punishments that the courts can then use to determine your penalty upon your conviction.

The judge presiding over your case also has an input on your sentencing and penalties depending on mitigating factors discovered through your trial. If there are found to be aggravating factors present in the evidence presented against you, it usually adds to sentencing. Mitigating factors identified through your testimony, however, can reduce the severity of your penalties and sentencing.

For the court to decide on the exact voluntary manslaughter penalty, they examine the circumstances involved in your crime to determine what an appropriate penalty will be. The circumstances fall into two categories; mitigating and aggravating factors.

Mitigating factors will help to reduce your sentence. These factors show you pose less risk to society then you otherwise would be, so it is unnecessary to hand you a lengthy sentence. Mitigating factors can include a lack of criminal history and your acceptance of responsibility for the crime that occurred.

The exact procedure for sentencing after a conviction of voluntary manslaughter depends on the jurisdiction where your trial was held. Generally, there is a hearing where the prosecution and your attorney from Ringstrom Law can present any mitigating or aggravating factors involved in your case. The judge will listen to all the elements shown, and then decide and announce to the court what they have chosen is a justifiable sentence for your crime.

There are many different strategies to use as a defense against manslaughter charges, and you will want an experienced attorney from Ringstrom Law with you during these difficult times. Their understanding of Minnesota laws will help you find the best possible defense.

Where to Find an Attorney to Fight Manslaughter Charges Near Me

If you have been charged with manslaughter, you need to call Ringstrom Law at 218-284-0484 so we can begin building your defense plan. You need an attorney with experience in the court system and who fully understands the laws of Minnesota. Ringstrom Law will focus on what matters to you and will be behind you all the way through this challenging legal battle.

MN criminal defense attorneys Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr. & Bruce Ringstrom Sr.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in MN & ND

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  • Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • MSBA: Minnesota State Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • State Bar Association of North Dakota

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