Voluntary manslaughter charges in Rhode Island
Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional homicide committed in the heat of passion as a result of adequate provocation. Under Rhode Island criminal law, Voluntary Manslaughter may be found at Rhode Island General Laws, Section 11-23-3.
Legal elements of voluntary manslaughter
In order to be convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter, four requirements must be satisfied:
- adequate provocation of the defendant;
- the killing by the defendant of another while laboring under the heat of passion;
- before a reasonable opportunity for the passion to cool; and
- there must be a causal connection between the provocation, passion, and fatal act.
Legal definitions of voluntary manslaughter
Adequate provocation is measured through the eyes of a reasonable person, and not by what the defendant himself or herself subjectively believed. For provocation to be “adequate” for purposes of Voluntary Manslaughter, it must be of a nature such that it would inflame the passions of a reasonable person in like circumstances and tend to cause him or her to act for the moment from passion rather than reason – that is, tend for the moment to deprive a reasonable person of self-control.
Heat of passion is examined subjectively and depends upon whether or not the defendant himself did, in fact, kill during the heat of passion. To constitute “heat of passion” it is not necessary for the passion to be so extreme that the defendant did not know what he was doing at the time, but it must be sufficiently great that his action was directed by passion rather than reason. Heat of passion may include fear, terror, and/or anger.
Voluntary Manslaughter does not occur unless the killing occurred in a sudden heat of passion. In other words, the fatal act must have followed the provocation before ta reasonable opportunity for the defendant’s passion to cool down.
Whether there was a reasonable opportunity for the passion to cool depends upon whether or not, considering all the circumstances, there was a sufficient lapse of time after the provocation that an reasonable person would have cooled sufficiently so that his or her actions would be directed by reason rather than by passion.
If the crime was committed after this reasonable cool down period, Voluntary Manslaughter is inapplicable. Under this circumstance, the defendant may be criminally responsible for a more serious crime such as murder.
Voluntary manslaughter as a defense in Rhode Island
Voluntary Manslaughter is a less serious crime than First Degree Murder, Second Degree Murder, and Felony Murder. Though still a serious felony that results in the death of another person, it is not a capital offense or punishable by life imprisonment.
Often times this offense is charged on its own. In other instances, defense counsel representing defendants charged with more serious murder charges will attempt to raise Voluntary Manslaughter during plea negotiations, or at trial, seek a jury instruction on this less serious offense as a strategic way of defending a case, reducing a client’s criminal responsibility, and exposure on sentencing. Though not an affirmative defense, the actual offense can be used successfully as a defense strategy to murder.
Examples of voluntary manslaughter
The following are some factual examples of Voluntary Manslaughter.
- A man returns homes after work to find his wife in bed with another man. In response, he takes a gun out and kills the wife’s paramour;
- A man assaults another man by inflicting severe harm and the wounded man responds by taking out a knife out and stabbing the other man to death;
- A cheating spouse continues to verbally taunt and ridicule the other spouse, resulting in the emotionally distraught spouse to respond with some form of sudden force against the cheater;
- A man comes home to find his girlfriend beaten and bruised. She tells him the neighbor assaulted her, resulting in him grabbing his gun, going next door and exacting revenge by shooting the neighbor him.
Potential punishment if convicted of voluntary manslaughter in Rhode Island
Under Rhode Island law, a conviction for Voluntary Manslaughter is a felony and the defendant shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding 30 years. There is no mandatory jail required by law. This penalty may be found at Rhode Island General Laws, Section 11-23-3.
Contact Rhode Island Voluntary Manslaughter Lawyer John L. Calcagni, III
If you have been charged with a Voluntary Manslaughter offense and need experienced representation, contact the Rhode Island Murder and Homicide Defense Lawyers at the Law Office of John L. Calcagni III at (401) 351-5100 to schedule a free consultation.