Unlike most crimes, involuntary manslaughter is not a crime in which the accused's state of mind or intent is an element. The California Penal Code defines it as an accidental homicide committed either during the commission of a non-felony crime or as the result of reckless conduct during a lawful activity. Under either theory, there is no allegation of intent by the accused to kill the victim. If the case is based on an allegation involving a lawful act, the prosecution must, however, prove the accused/defendant knew or should have known the conduct was such that it posed a potential danger to others.
Legal experts explain that although the burden of proof to convict a defendant is on the prosecution, it is the prosecution that typically is seen as having the advantage in a criminal case due to the vastly superior resources available to the government as compared to all but a few defendants. A viable defense must either challenge one or more of the elements of the alleged crime or rely on an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is where the defense does not disagree with the allegations as put forth by the prosecution but explains the conduct is not unlawful because of specific circumstances. Self-defense is an example of an affirmative defense.
Attacking the elements of the crime as alleged by the prosecution is very fact-specific. For instance, a defense to a charge of involuntary manslaughter based on the commission of a non-felony crime can be to offer evidence that the defendant did not commit the underlying crime. Similarly, if reckless conduct is alleged during a lawful act, the defense may contend the conduct was accidental, not purposeful.
Cases alleging violent crimes are vigorously prosecuted. A criminal defense lawyer may offer counsel in assuring a defendant's constitutional rights are protected.