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Crime of Passion Law California


Typically, the crime of passion is considered as a criminal offense, which a person commits under immense emotional disturbance or rage. The state of emotional disturbance is usually called “heat of passion”. It is some behavior exhibited by the victim that provoked the accused. The latter committed the crime in the heat of passion. When a person kills another person under the heat of passion and not intentionally usually lowers a killing to voluntary manslaughter from murder.

Thus, according to the general crime of passion law, when such a criminal offense takes place, the defense counsel will try to establish that the accused was provoked so that the charge’s severity can be reduced. An apt instance is a person who finds out that his spouse was in bed with someone else. The person at the heat of passion shoots them to death. The crime of passion law in California like a majority of other states in America is that such killing should not be considered murder and the offense is voluntary manslaughter.

California Crime of Passion Law

What does crime of passion mean?

So, what is the crime of passion law in California? In California, there is a penal code in the state statute, which describes the criminal offense of “voluntary manslaughter”. An individual is said to have committed this offense in California when they kill someone else:

  1. In the heat of the moment
  2. During a quarrel or argument that happens all of a sudden, or
  3. On the basis of an unreasonable but honest belief of the requirement of defending oneself that is also referred to as imperfect self-defense.

In comparison to murder, voluntary manslaughter is considered by the law as a less severe criminal offense. The state prosecution will rarely put forth this penal code as the original charge. Rather, this offense typically pops up in a murder case where the defendant admits of killing a person. However, he/she requests the charge to be lowered to manslaughter from murder.

In a murder case, the prosecution can agree to the plea bargain wherein the defendant pleads guilty of committing manslaughter so that the murder charge brought against his/her can be exchanged. Alternatively, the jury in a particular murder lawsuit might find the accused guilty of the commission of manslaughter, a lesser offense instead of the originally charged crime of murder in the state.

In order to make sure that an act is qualified as a provocation, there should be certain circumstances that surround a homicide. Some such common provocation acts are listed below:

  1. Murdering a family member
  2. When the spouse of the defendant commits adultery, or
  3. There is mutual combat between the victim and the accused

Crime of Passion Law California
Possible punishments for the
crime of passion law California

The state laws of California have defined separate penalties for vehicular manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and voluntary manslaughter. When a person is convicted of the offense of voluntary manslaughter, he/she can be penalized by a prison term of three, six, or 11 years. In contrast, murder can be penalized by a prison term between 15 years and life imprisonment or twenty-five years to life when a 1st-degree murder has been committed in California. In California, voluntary manslaughter is regarded as a felony.

Possible defenses available

  1. Involuntary intoxication
  2. Self-defense
  3. Absence of mental capacity or insanity
  4. Imperfect self-defense

It should be noted that the circumstances and events surrounding a homicide should be provocation or quarrel and the defense counsel has to prove that there was no malice, which could otherwise be charged as a murder. However, the prosecution has to still establish that the accused had the intention of causing death or serious physical injury on the victim so that voluntary manslaughter can be proved in California.

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