Kansas Manslaughter Charges and Key Differences from Murder

Kansas law includes two types of manslaughter: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. The state considers these felony charges to be violent crimes with a maximum sentence of more than 20 years in prison, depending on a defendant’s criminal history.

Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are among several homicide-related charges in Kansas. Other examples include murder, vehicular homicide, and assisted suicide.

If you’ve been charged with manslaughter or you believe you could be charged with manslaughter, it’s important to immediately contact an attorney who can protect your rights.

What is voluntary manslaughter?

Under Kansas law, a person can be charged with voluntary manslaughter if they knowingly kill someone during a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. A person could also be charged with voluntary manslaughter if they kill someone in a situation that they unreasonably but honestly believed justified the use of deadly force.

Voluntary manslaughter is a level 3 felony with a possible sentence of 55 months to 247 months in prison and a maximum fine of $300,000.

As an example, a person might be charged with voluntary manslaughter if they kill someone during a road rage fight or when they come home to find their spouse is cheating on them.

Typically, the prosecution of a voluntary manslaughter case hinges on proving the defendant’s state of mind when they committed an act. As you can imagine, that leaves room for a significant amount of gray area in these cases. Knowing all of this, an experienced criminal defense attorney can develop an effective legal strategy to protect your rights.

What is involuntary manslaughter?

In Kansas, involuntary manslaughter is defined as the unintentional killing of someone in any of the following ways:

  • Recklessly
  • While committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing from the scene of a felony (not including an inherently dangerous felony) or a misdemeanor offense that was created to protect human life or safety
  • Driving under the influence
  • During a lawful act in an unlawful manner

A defendant convicted of involuntary manslaughter could go to prison between 31 months and 136 months and pay a fine of up to $100,000. However, a person convicted of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence faces a longer possible prison sentence of 38 months to 172 months and a fine of up to $300,000.

In addition to DUI manslaughter, some other examples of involuntary manslaughter include reckless driving or accidentally discharging a firearm.

Under Kansas sentencing guidelines, a person charged with involuntary manslaughter could avoid prison time if they have a limited criminal history and present a strong case to the court. This underscores the importance of hiring an aggressive criminal defense attorney who can effectively argue on your behalf.

What’s the difference between manslaughter and murder charges in Kansas?

Although both murder and manslaughter cases are classified as homicides, some key factors differentiate them from each other. Some of these factors include whether a defendant planned the killing, whether the killing was intentional, and what type of crimes the defendant may have been committing at the time of the death.

First-degree murder vs. voluntary manslaughter: First-degree murder is the intentional and premeditated killing of a person or the killing of someone while committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing from a dangerous felony such as robbery or kidnapping. Conversely, voluntary manslaughter is killing someone during a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion, or when a person wrongly but honestly believed deadly force was necessary.

Second-degree murder vs. involuntary manslaughter: Second-degree is defined as killing a person intentionally or killing someone unintentionally but recklessly and with extreme indifference to the value of human life. Meanwhile, involuntary manslaughter isn’t intentional, and although it may also involve recklessness, it’s not with extreme indifference to the value of human life.

What to do if you’re charged with manslaughter

If you've been charged with either manslaughter or another type of homicide charge, it’s important to immediately contact a trusted criminal defense attorney. These cases usually involve a significant degree of nuance and complexity.

Jeremy D. Koop has both prosecuted and defended numerous manslaughter cases throughout his law career. As an experienced criminal defense attorney based in Wichita, Kansas, he’s prepared to provide the skilled defense required in manslaughter cases. 

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