What Are The Defenses To Manslaughter?

Posted on: 30 June 2023

Are you facing manslaughter charges? Here are some of the defenses your criminal defense attorney may be able to use.


Self-defense is a legal defense strategy that asserts that the accused caused the death of another person in order to protect themselves or others from imminent harm or death. This defense argues that the actions taken were necessary and reasonable given the circumstances.

To successfully employ this defense, the accused must demonstrate that they reasonably believed they were facing a genuine threat of harm and that the force they used in response was proportionate to the threat. The defense can provide evidence such as eyewitness statements, physical evidence, or documented history of previous threats or violence by the aggressor. The proof needed varies since some places require the prosecutor to disprove self-defense while others require the defense to actually prove self-defense.

Accidental Death

The defense of accidental death asserts that the death was purely accidental and not the result of any deliberate, reckless, or negligent actions by the accused. It emphasizes that the death occurred due to an unforeseeable and unpreventable event.

In a manslaughter case, the prosecution generally has to prove a criminal state of mind by the defendant. This includes not only intentional actions but actions that should have been avoided except for recklessness or negligence by the defendant.

The defense can challenge any evidence of a criminal state of mind the prosecution puts forward. The defense can also put on additional evidence that shows that the defendant acted reasonably and couldn't have avoided the accident.


The defense of provocation argues that the accused was provoked or incited by the victim's actions or behavior, which caused them to lose control of their actions and resulted in death. It aims to establish that the accused's response was a direct result of the victim's provocative actions.

Provocation can either be a total defense or a partial defense depending on the circumstances. It can be a total defense when the response was considered reasonable self-defense. Some places also make provocation a total defense with responses that don't quite fit reasonable self-defense.

When provocation isn't a total defense, it can reduce the level of the charges. In these cases, the law says that while the defendant may have acted unreasonably, the provocation provides some explanation for the response so the consequences should be lower than they would be without provocation.

Contact a criminal defense lawyer near you to learn more.