Voluntary Manslaughter

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Voluntary Manslaughter Lawyer in Cincinnati

Voluntary manslaughter, although understood to be a crime without malice, still represents a serious offense in Ohio—a first-degree felony. If a court convicts you of this crime, you face time in prison, as well as a substantial fine.

Brian Joslyn of Joslyn Law Firm is a nationally ranked top 10 attorney by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. He has dedicated his life to protecting the rights of those accused of crimes in Ohio.

As a voluntary manslaughter lawyer in Cincinnati, Brian Joslyn of Joslyn Law Firm has a solid background in preparing defenses for those accused of violent crimes. He will investigate your case and gather evidence that fits with a strategy to yield the best outcome for you.

Numerous organizations have recognized Brian Joslyn with awards for his services as a Cincinnati criminal defense attorney. With memberships to organizations like Rue Ratings’ Best Attorneys of America and The National Trial Lawyers Association, know that you are in good hands with Brian and his legal team.

A lawyer from Joslyn Law Firm can take on your case and help you fight a voluntary manslaughter conviction. We’ve gotten our clients charged with manslaughter lower sentences through plea deals and defenses. We want to help you, too, if you were charged with a violent crime.

Voluntary Manslaughter in Cincinnati

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting (FBI: UCR), there were 70 murders and voluntary manslaughter cases known to law enforcement in Cincinnati in 2017. There were more than 600 throughout Ohio in the same year.

If police are questioning you or investigating you for voluntary manslaughter, or if you have already been arrested or charged with this offense, you should seek legal counsel immediately. You have a right to remain silent—and you should invoke this right. Do not share information with law enforcement officials until you have an attorney by your side who can ensure your rights are not violated.

It’s understandable to feel intimated with charges of voluntary manslaughter, and you have enough on your plate. Our team is ready to take on your case, even if it feels impossible.

We have years of handling all types of criminal cases, and some of our team can even lend their perspective as former criminal prosecutors to help build your case and establish a strong defense.

The consequences a voluntary manslaughter conviction will persist well beyond your prison sentence. Once a felony makes its way onto your criminal record, you could face tremendous challenges when you try to find employment. Other collateral consequences from this conviction involve your right to certain types of government assistance and the right to own firearms.

We’re ready to help you. Everyone at Joslyn law Firm knows that your life, your freedom, your relationships, and your ability to enjoy life to the fullest are one the line. Know that our team may be able to help you get your charges reduced or even dismissed. Call today to learn about your legal options in a free consultation at (513) 399-6289.

Voluntary Manslaughter Information Center

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Voluntary Manslaughter Definitions in Ohio

People generally identify this offense as occurring when a person kills in the “heat of passion.” The State of Ohio more specifically defines the scope and terms for voluntary manslaughter offenses within the Ohio Revised Code § 2903.03 with several criteria that separate it from other forms of homicide and assault.

Under Ohio law, a person commits voluntary manslaughter when they cause the death of another individual while the offender is “under the influence of sudden passion or in a sudden fit of rage.” The victim in this scenario would have provoked the offender’s state of mind to such a degree that it could be deemed sufficient to prompt the offender’s use of deadly force.

In simpler terms, a person who commits voluntary manslaughter intended to kill the victim, but the intent arose from—and the killing occurred during—a state of heightened emotional excitement.

It is important to underscore that the extreme emotional state and the act of killing must be simultaneous in order for such an action to constitute voluntary manslaughter. If the prosecution can prove that the offender experienced a “cooling off” period between their state of passion or rage and the actual killing, the offender can be charged with murder instead of voluntary manslaughter and face even stiffer penalties.

Killing an Unborn Child

If, under the same scope of circumstances, a person causes the death of another individual’s unborn child, the offender’s actions also constitute voluntary manslaughter, as per Ohio Revised Code § 2903.03.

Sexually Motivated Voluntary Manslaughter

Ohio laws further stipulate that a person who, driven by sexual motivations, causes the death of another individual or their unborn child is also guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The law defines sexual motivation in Ohio Revised Code § 2971.01(J) as one focused on the gratification of the offender’s sexual desires or needs.

Charge Classification

A person who is found guilty of voluntary manslaughter will be charged with a first-degree felony. They will face the severe penalties associated with this serious offense.

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Penalties for Voluntary Manslaughter in Ohio

The penalties for voluntary manslaughter, which Ohio charges as a first-degree felony, are outlined in Ohio Revised Code § 2929.14. According to the definite prison terms outlined in the code, a person convicted of voluntary manslaughter faces a minimum of three years and up to 11 years in prison. They will also be penalized with a fine of up to $20,000.

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Evidence in Cincinnati Voluntary Manslaughter Cases

When proving a case of voluntary manslaughter, several elements come together to establish the extent to which the alleged offender is morally culpable.

The line of thinking is that although the offender intended to kill the victim, the intent for the killing arose in a victim-provoked, extreme state of emotional agitation, passion, or rage, thereby reducing the moral guilt attached to the act.

A fine line separates voluntary manslaughter from acts of murder, which carry harsher penalties. In order for a criminal defense lawyer to prove that the defendant’s actions constituted voluntary manslaughter, rather than first- or second-degree murder, the attorney must prove each element of this offense to be true in the case at hand.

The Element of Provocation

The defense must show that the victim provoked in the defendant such a level of rage or passion that any reasonable person in a similar situation would also fall prey to an impulse to kill.

Common examples of sufficient provocation include a person catching their spouse in the act of being sexually unfaithful. The victim severely assaulting the defendant can also be shown as a sufficient provocation to such violence.


The fact that the defendant was driven to a “heat of passion” by the victim’s actions does not automatically clear them of moral responsibility for killing the victim. The defense must show that the actual act of killing happened while the defendant was in this heightened emotional state.

If the prosecution can prove that enough “cooling off” time passed between the victim’s provocative actions and the defendant’s reaction of killing, the “heat of passion” element no longer applies, and the offense can be charged as murder.

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Defenses to Cincinnati Voluntary Manslaughter Charges

Generally speaking, a criminal defense attorney can draw from the same types of defenses as they would for other types of homicide offenses. Some of these defenses include the following:


With this defense, the defendant’s lawyer will attempt to convince the court that you did not commit the crime. It is, after all, up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did commit the crime (Ohio Revised Code § 2901.05).

With this defense, a lawyer might present an alibi for the defendant. They can find other ways to poke holes in the prosecution’s evidence. All that’s required is that they raise a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s commission of the crime. If successful in this effort, the jury must acquit the defendant of the charges.


If a lawyer presents self-defense as the defense for voluntary manslaughter, it will look somewhat different than a claim of self-defense in a case of murder. Whereas murder charges allow for both perfect and imperfect self-defense claims, which can lead to acquittal or reduction of charges, respectively, a charge of voluntary manslaughter can use only a perfect self-defense claim.

In a perfect self-defense claim, the defense lawyer must convince the court there was a reasonable, life-preserving need for the use of deadly force. An imperfect self-defense claim—one that argues the defendant had an unreasonable belief that they could preserve their lives only with the use of deadly force—does not help the defendant charged with voluntary manslaughter. Instead, it constitutes an admission of guilt.


A defense lawyer, in some cases, might set out to prove that the defendant met the legal definition of insanity when they committed the act of killing. The legal definition essentially states that the defendant did not understand the scope of their actions or was unable to distinguish the difference between right and wrong. A person found to be legally insane cannot be held accountable for their actions.

You can learn more about the insanity plea by looking at the Ohio Office of the Public Defender’s Criminal Law Casebook.

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Ohio Voluntary Manslaughter Resources

Ohio Attorney General Crime Victim Services

The Ohio Attorney General’s Crime Victims Services offers a multitude of resources for victims of crimes. There’s a fund to compensate crime victims for counseling, wage replacement, and more. They also provide educational programs to help crime victims get back on their feet.

Ohio Office of the Public Defender’s Criminal Law Casebook

The casebook has a section on homicide offenses where you can look at relevant statutes and case precedent.

Voluntary Manslaughter after Patterson: An Analysis of Ohio Law

Although published in 1985, this paper provides useful insight into the development of Ohio’s manslaughter laws—from English Common Law to the Ohio Criminal Code to the Ohio Revised Code. The document, published by the Cleveland State Law Review, sheds light on the constitutional framework for Ohio’s laws and provides a deep analysis of the state’s manslaughter laws, especially with respect to the controversial Mullaney-Patterson case.

State v. Shane (590 N.E.2d 272, 63 Ohio St. 3d 630) 

This landmark 1993 Ohio Supreme Court case established the two measures by which “reasonably sufficient provocation” is tested in cases of voluntary manslaughter. The defendant, Robert Shane, was accused of killing his fiancée by strangling her after she confessed to him that she had cheated on him with other men.

The two steps involved first evaluating the victim had provoked the defendant to the extent that was sufficient to inspire sudden rage or passion. The second step was to determine whether the defendant remained in that state of rage or passion when they committed the act of killing. Another outcome of this case was the disqualification of verbal confessions of adultery as grounds for reasonably sufficient provocation.

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Ohio Voluntary Manslaughter News

January 14, 2021

New Date Set for Murder Trial of Former Columbus Vice Officer Andrew Mitchell

Former Columbus Police Vice Unit Officer Andrew Mitchell faces charges of voluntary manslaughter and murder for the 2018 killing of Donna Castleberry. The case represents a first for Franklin County: in almost 25 years, it is the first instance of an officer of the peace being indicted for the shooting death of a civilian.

Mitchell arrested Castleberry for prostitution but was in an unmarked car with no identification. According to the Franklin County prosecutor, Castleberry thought she was going to be raped and stabbed Mitchell’s hand. Mitchell then allegedly shot Castleberry. The former officer is being held in an Ohio federal prison.

January 13, 2021

Elyria Man Charged With Voluntary Manslaughter After Fatal Fight in Carlisle Township

Craig E. Lengyel, of Elyria, Ohio, was charged with voluntary manslaughter after a fight with another man that caused his death. The fight took place in Carlisle Township. Lengyel contacted the Lorain County dispatch to alert them that he had been fighting with the victim and both men were bleeding.

Police tracked Lengyel’s cell phone and arrived at the scene, where they found Dennis Varner dead. The fight began sometime after the two men had left a bar. Tire marks, the victim’s position, and a bloody trail suggested that Lengyel might have run over Varner with his vehicle. Lengyel was charged with voluntary manslaughter, felonious assault, and domestic violence and is being held on a $50,000 bond.

October 29, 2020

Crestline Woman, 54, Charged With Murder

A grand jury indicted Tessa R. Perry on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, amongst other charges, after allegedly dumping hot grease on another woman. The victim died of a heart attack, but the coroner specified the manner of death as a homicide.

The two women had an altercation on May 24, 2020. Perry was cooking French fries, according to the prosecutor, and she poured them on the victim. The victim died of a heart attack, but the coroner’s report stated the heart attack resulted from the grease injuries.

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FAQs for Voluntary Manslaughter in Ohio

Q. What penalties do I face for voluntary manslaughter in Ohio?

  1. If you are convicted of voluntary manslaughter in Ohio, you will be charged with a first-degree felony, which carries penalties of between three and 11 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.

Q. Is it possible to have voluntary manslaughter charges reduced or dismissed in Ohio?

A: Yes, a criminal defense lawyer can implement several strategies in an attempt to have a client’s voluntary manslaughter charges reduced or dismissed. One option is to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. This involves admitting to the offense for reduced penalties or admitting to a lesser charge. A lawyer can present evidence that raises reasonable doubt amongst the jury members, which can lead to the defendant’s acquittal.

Q. Will I spend time in prison for voluntary manslaughter in Ohio?

A: Yes, a voluntary manslaughter conviction in Ohio means that you could spend anywhere between three and 11 years in prison.

Q. How can I be charged with voluntary manslaughter in Cincinnati?

A: You can be charged with voluntary manslaughter in Ohio if you kill another individual—or an unborn child—with intent, but only after being seriously provoked by the victim to the extent that you fall into a state of sudden passion or fit of rage, and your killing reaction occurs while you are in this heightened emotional state.

Q. Are there any defenses to voluntary manslaughter in Cincinnati?

A: Yes, a criminal defense lawyer can raise any of several defenses against voluntary manslaughter charges. Common defenses include:

  • Your innocence
  • Self-defense
  • Insanity

Q. How is voluntary manslaughter different from involuntary manslaughter?

A: In the case of involuntary manslaughter, there is no intent. With voluntary manslaughter, intent exists, even if only momentarily—and even though it existed in a state of passion or a fit of rage.

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Voluntary Manslaughter Lawyer in Cincinnati

If you think you could be under investigation for voluntary manslaughter—or if you have already been arrested for this offense, be careful to not say anything to the authorities until you have retained legal counsel who can protect your rights.

Voluntary manslaughter lawyer Brian Joslyn of Joslyn Law Firm represents people from Cincinnati who are fighting voluntary manslaughter and other violent crime charges. Call Joslyn Law Firm today to discuss your case and learn of your legal options moving forward with your defense. Call us for a free initial consultation at (513) 399-6289.

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