Both involve the death of another person. But small differences can mean a lot in these crimes. It is all a matter of intent.
First-Degree Manslaughter Defined
First-degree manslaughter in Oklahoma is defined as a death that occurs in the face of one of three possible circumstances:
- the death occurs during the commission of a misdemeanor; or
- the death occurs in the heat of passion, but in a cruel and unusual manner, and the death is not legally justified or excused; or
- by means of a dangerous weapon, or when the death occurred unnecessarily either while resisting an attempt by the person killed, to commit a crime, or after that attempt has failed.
Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 711
None of these circumstances involve the intent to commit murder. None involve “malice aforethought” or “depraved mind,” which indicate premeditation of the intent to kill. There is no intent to kill in manslaughter.
When a death occurs during the commission of a misdemeanor, the crime is charged as manslaughter. No specific intent to kill is required for this charge.
In order to be charged, the misdemeanor must be the direct and proximate cause of death. This is often an accidental death. For example, when an intoxicated driver strikes and kills a pedestrian, this is often charged as manslaughter.
Heat of Passion Manslaughter
This is the typical scenario of being caught “in flagrante.” A wife comes home and her husband is having sex with her best friend in the pool. Enraged and seeing red, the wife grabs the closest gun and shoots them.
She was not thinking rationally and had no specific intent to kill them, but her actions did result in their deaths.
This scenario may happen in the resisting of another’s attempt at committing a crime. This may occur during an attempted burglary for example. A person may defend their home and the people in it, but lethal force in defense of property or to resist a crime that would not kill the victim is against the law.
Penalties for First-Degree Manslaughter
First-degree manslaughter is a felony in Oklahoma. The crime is punishable by at least four years in prison. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 715
You want to avoid prison if at all possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help. The prosecution will bring their A-game. You should, too.
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