Jul 19, 2023

Voluntary vs. involuntary manslaughter in Missouri

Criminal Defense

Missouri distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter when prosecuting a crime in which a person kills another person recklessly or purposely. While the law considers both crimes less severe than murder, they still constitute felony convictions. 

Learn more about how the state defines types of manslaughter and penalizes offenders for these convictions. 

What is voluntary manslaughter? 

Missouri defines two situations as voluntary manslaughter. This crime occurs when a person helps someone else commit suicide or kills another person in the throes of intense emotion, such as when an extramarital affair comes to light. The latter situation differs from murder because the person was not in his or her right mind when the crime occurred. 

Voluntary manslaughter is a Class B felony in Missouri. If convicted, you could receive a fine of up to $5,000 and five to 15 years in prison. 

What actions constitute involuntary manslaughter? 

With involuntary manslaughter, negligence or reckless actions cause the death of another person. First-degree involuntary manslaughter is a drunk driving accident in either a boat or an automobile that results in a fatality. Second-degree involuntary manslaughter covers any other criminally negligent action that results in someone’s death. Texting and driving is one common example.  

Second-degree involuntary manslaughter is a Class D felony in Missouri. Consequences include a fine of up to $5,000 and up to four years in prison. For first-degree involuntary manslaughter, penalties increase to up to 15 years in prison with a fine of up to $5,000. 

You and your criminal defense attorney can argue in an involuntary manslaughter case that you did not know your actions were dangerous. In a voluntary manslaughter case, you may have acted in self-defense to protect your own or another person’s life, or a witness could have misidentified or falsely accused you. Defending your legal rights in court may result in decreased penalties or a dismissal depending on the circumstances of your case.