Many people are aware that crimes that involve the death of a person, particularly murder, are among the most serious and can result in jail time. Manslaughter is generally viewed as a lesser crime than murder, and although voluntary manslaughter still involves the intentional killing of another person, involuntary manslaughter does not. However, even involuntary manslaughter is still punishable as a felony.

Voluntary manslaughter involves a person killing someone intentionally in a moment of passion. It can happen when someone feels provoked to anger and strikes someone in such a way that it kills that person. The actions are often rash and committed in the heat of the moment without any premeditation. Nonetheless, the person committing the killing did intend to cause harm.

By comparison, North Carolina law says, per FindLaw, that involuntary manslaughter takes place when somebody kills another person without the intention to do so. When someone commits involuntary manslaughter, they act recklessly or commit criminal acts while doing so. State law further specifies that the criminal behavior that caused the death must not rise to the level of a felony.

Both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter carry felony charges, but the type of manslaughter the prosecution charges you with will matter a great deal. Voluntary manslaughter is a Class D felony and can land you in prison from 51 to 64 months, which can come out to over five years of incarceration. By contrast, the state classifies involuntary manslaughter as a Class F felony that can put you away from just 13 to 16 months.

Even an involuntary manslaughter conviction can seriously upend your life, which is why some people seek a strong defense against such charges. In addition to claiming they are innocent of the crime, individuals charged with manslaughter may also claim the death occurred as a sheer accident with no malice, or they may claim self defense. Defenses against manslaughter charges will depend heavily on the circumstances of the case.