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What is the Law on Manslaughter in Massachusetts and What are the Punishments for it?

Manslaughter refers to the non-premeditated killing of one human being by another. In the state of Massachusetts, both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter is governed by Section 15 (Chapter 265) of the Massachusetts General Laws. Any person can be charged for manslaughter if their acts result in the death of another person. Manslaughter is entirely different from murder which involves premeditation and malice.

According to the law of Massachusetts, there are two types of manslaughter, viz. voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Both types of manslaughters are felonies but are punished differently.

Massachusetts Voluntary Manslaughter

Voluntary manslaughter is defined as the death of a person when he is reasonably provoked by the victim. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when the accused is under stress or duress such as a heated argument. Voluntary manslaughter also happens when there is fighting or combat between two persons. Unlike murder, the accused mostly acts on emotional excitement or impulse while killing another person.

Massachusetts Manslaughter Law

In the case of voluntary manslaughter, the killing of another person happens for a purpose. Under the law on manslaughter in the state of Massachusetts, the prosecutor needs to prove the following to convict a person of voluntary manslaughter:

  • The accused injured another person in a way that could lead to their death
  • The injury later leads to the death of a person
  • The accused acted in an illegal way while killing another person. This means that there was no legal justification for killing another person like self-defense.

Massachusetts Punishment for Voluntary Manslaughter

Since both types of manslaughter are felonies in the state of Massachusetts, they could only be prosecuted in a superior court. The punishment for voluntary manslaughter is imprisonment for a period ranging between three to twenty years. The convict might also need to pay restitution to the victim’s family depending upon the decision of the judge or the jury.

Massachusetts Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter means the killing of another person happens unintentionally. The prosecutor needs to prove the following to convict a person of involuntary manslaughter:

  • The accused killed another person unintentionally even when he acted illegally
  • Conduct of the accused was reckless or wanton. For example, an act of drunk driving that harms another person. Prosecutor needs to prove that a reasonable person would not have done the same thing and would have harmed another person
  • The reckless or want an act of the accused causes the death of another person
Manslaughter Law Massachusetts

Massachusetts Punishment for Involuntary Manslaughter

Punishment for involuntary manslaughter in Massachusetts is relatively lower than the punishment for this crime in other states. The punishment for involuntary manslaughter is imprisonment for a period ranging from ten to sixteen months. But the punishment might be increased if the jury or the judge feels the accused acted in a highly reckless manner.

Massachusetts Manslaughter While Driving a Motor Vehicle

A person might also be charged with manslaughter if he kills another person while driving a motor vehicle in an inebriated state. The punishment for killing another person while driving drunk is imprisonment for a period of twenty years in state prison. A fine of $25,000 and loss of driver’s license for a period of fifteen years will also be applicable.

According to the amendments made to the Massachusetts General Laws in the year 2005 as part of the Melanie’s Law, a person convicted of manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs should serve at least five years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. In some cases, the convict might also be employed under the work release program.

Massachusetts Statute of Limitations

According to Section 63 (Chapter 277) of Massachusetts General Laws, the statute of limitations for both types of manslaughter is six years. 

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