Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another person without malice, either express or implied.

An unlawful killing with malice aforethought is murder – so, if there is an unlawful killing and no malice aforethought, and if the elements of manslaughter are met, manslaughter is a lesser included offense to murder.

This means that a murder charge can be reduced to manslaughter by the prosecution when appropriate, and jurors can sometimes find a defendant guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter at the end of a murder trial.

There are two types of manslaughter in SC: 1) Voluntary manslaughter; and 2) Involuntary manslaughter. What do these terms mean and what does the prosecution have to prove to get a conviction?

What is Voluntary Manslaughter in SC?

Voluntary manslaughter is:

  1. The unlawful killing of a person,
  2. In sudden heat of passion,
  3. Upon sufficient legal provocation.

Both heat of passion and sufficient legal provocation must be present at the time of killing.

Provocation means some act of the victim, such as an attack on the defendant by the victim. The victim's efforts to defend himself would not constitute legal provocation but an unprovoked attack would.

Voluntary manslaughter in South Carolina carries a minimum penalty of two years and a maximum penalty of thirty years in prison.

What is Involuntary Manslaughter in SC?

The main difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter in SC is that voluntary manslaughter is intentional, while involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing.

The intent required for involuntary manslaughter is criminal negligence, which is a lower standard of proof than malice aforethought or even the general criminal intent which is required for most crimes. Criminal negligence is defined as a reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Involuntary manslaughter is defined as either:

  1. The unintentional killing of another without malice but while engaged in an unlawful activity not naturally tending to cause death or great bodily harm; or
  2. The unintentional killing of another without malice while engaged in lawful activity.

The maximum penalty for involuntary manslaughter is five years in prison.

SC Manslaughter Defense Attorney in Columbia, Lexington, and Myrtle Beach

Under the right circumstances, a murder charge can be reduced to manslaughter or the jury can find a defendant guilty of the lesser offense of manslaughter. If you have been charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter, call the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm at 843-444-6122 or contact us online to set up an initial consultation about your case.