Homicides can include murder and manslaughter. A person who didn’t commit a murder but did kill someone might be charged with manslaughter. There are two types of manslaughter — involuntary and voluntary. Of these two, voluntary manslaughter is the most serious type.

Voluntary manslaughter is a step below murder but a step above involuntary manslaughter. When a person is charged with voluntary manslaughter, the prosecution is saying that the defendant killed a person but didn’t have a prior intent to kill the person. It is possible to face a voluntary manslaughter charge in a killing that was done in the heat of passion.

There are several things that can occur that would lead to a voluntary manslaughter charge. If you walk in on a stranger damaging the American flag and kill that person in a fit of rage, you might be charged with voluntary manslaughter because you didn’t plan to kill the person when you went to the location of the flag.

If you left the person at the flag, went home to get a knife or gun, and came back to kill that person, you probably would face a more serious charge than voluntary manslaughter. This is because the element of prior intent is present. You planned to kill person and left to get a weapon.

Defense strategies against voluntary manslaughter charges can vary greatly because most defenses have to include information about the case’s circumstances. If you are facing a voluntary manslaughter charge, you should make sure that you look at every possible option for a defense before you settle on one.

Source: FindLaw, “Voluntary Manslaughter Overview,” accessed Sep. 02, 2016