Under Georgia state law, “homicide” is a category of offenses that applies when a crime is committed resulting in the death of a victim. The difference between murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter is particularly important because the seriousness of these crimes vary and a prosecutor may charge you with a more serious offense in the expectation that you will plea bargain your way into a lesser offense.
Unlike many states, Georgia doesn’t divide murder into “first degree” or “second degree”. A murder occurs when one person kills another person with the conscious intent to take his life, when a person kills another person though reckless disregard for human life (by deliberately driving through a crowded crosswalk, for example). Murder also applies when a victim is killed during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony, even if the killing was accidental. The minimum sentence for murder in Georgia is life in prison, and the death penalty is possible if circumstances are serious enough.
A murder charge can be reduced to voluntary manslaughter if you acted pursuant to a sudden and extreme passion. The classic circumstance in which voluntary manslaughter is applied is when a man kills his wife’s lover after catching them in bed together. Another circumstance would be “imperfect self-defense,” scenario in which the killer was provoked and had the right to use self-defense, but overreacted with deadly force. To reduce a murder charge to voluntary manslaughter, you must have been strongly provoked, and you must not have had the opportunity to cool down before the killing. If convicted of voluntary manslaughter in Georgia, you could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
A voluntary manslaughter charge can be reduced to involuntary manslaughter if the killing was accidental but was the result of criminal negligence. You can be criminally negligent by driving while legally intoxicated, and you can be charged with voluntary manslaughter if this results in a fatal accident. Another example would be an electrician who flagrantly disregards safety regulations while rewiring a house, thereby causing a fire that results in death. Voluntary manslaughter can result in a prison sentence of up to ten years, but can be reduced to a misdemeanor under limited circumstances.
There are many ways a good attorney can defend against any of these charges. The state must prove every aspect of its case (that the defendant was acting negligently, for example) beyond a reasonable doubt in order to win a conviction. The prosecutor must also prove that the killing was not justified – that you did not act appropriately in self-defense, for example.
Being convicted of any of these offenses is a serious matter than could ruin your life. At ABT Law Firm, LLC, we will fight for you aggressively so that your charges can be dropped and you can avoid prison time. Call 1-800-NOJAIL-9 or 1-800-665-2459 at any time 24/7 for a free initial consultation either in our office, over the telephone, or even in jail. We serve clients in the Atlanta area as well as all over Georgia.