Both manslaughter and murder in Oklahoma refer to crimes in which a defendant causes another person's death through illegal means. But even though the end result in both murder and manslaughter cases is one person's death and another person's criminal culpability, the difference in potential criminal sentences is enormous. First-degree murder in Oklahoma carries a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole, life in prison with no possibility of parole, or the death penalty. Second-degree murder carries a minimum sentence of ten years in prison and a possibility of life. First-degree manslaughter, on the other hand, carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison, while second-degree manslaughter carries a two to four prison sentence. Clearly, no one wants to spend a day in prison - and a criminal defense attorney will always seek a not guilty verdict or dropped charges when possible - but sometimes negotiating and/or litigating a defendant's way down from a murder charge to a manslaughter guilty plea or conviction is the best possible outcome, as it can mean a difference of decades of prison and avoidance of the death penalty.
Defining First-Degree Manslaughter in Oklahoma
Under Oklahoma law, a homicide may be charged as first-degree manslaughter instead of as murder in the following scenarios:
- Where the defendant did not intend to cause death but caused death in the commission of a misdemeanor
- Where the defendant, in the heat of passion, caused the death of another person in a cruel and unusual manner or through use of a dangerous weapon, without a design to cause to death
- Where the defendant used an invalid form of self-defense to resist a person attempting to commit a crime
Thus, situations in which manslaughter might be charged over murder could include (keeping in mind that every individual situation is different, and that this is not a comprehensive list): 1) a death caused by a first-time DUI offender; 2) a person using unreasonable deadly force to fight off an attacker; 3) a provoked person engaged in a sudden, unplanned fight with another person who uses unreasonable force or a weapon to kill the other person; or 4) a person who administers a lethal dose of a drug to another person without intent to kill.
Second-Degree Manslaughter in Oklahoma
Second-degree manslaughter in Oklahoma can be any illegal killing (other than some types of traffic deaths) which does not qualify as first-degree manslaughter or murder. The difference between whether a jury votes to convict a defendant for the same act for murder, manslaughter, or no crime at all (due to a valid defense such as self-defense) can be very slight, based on the particular ways that an experienced criminal defense attorney asserts facts in the defendant's defense and/or casts reasonable doubt on the allegations made by state prosecutors. Thus it is critical to obtain experienced defense counsel in your Oklahoma homicide case.
Experienced Criminal Defense in Your Oklahoma Criminal Matter
Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian is a former Oklahoma district attorney who relies on his years of experience in prosecuting cases to provide the best possible defense for all defendants. If you are facing criminal charges and/or investigation for a felony or misdemeanor in Oklahoma, contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405-896-9768 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do for you.