Attempted Involuntary Manslaughter in California

ronald-macgregorFor years attorneys have been defending those charged with attempted involuntary manslaughter with a common defense brought to California court’s attention in 1977. Ronald MacGregor, original defense for the case referenced, explains how he convinced the court that not only was his client not guilty of his alleged crimes, but that the charges brought against him were a contradiction of terms.


Attorney MacGregor was able to have the court conclude that attempted involuntary manslaughter is inherently contradictory. This led to a reversal of the defendant’s conviction and no time served. Since then, several cases have used the same argument to reverse convictions and obtain more favorable case outcomes for those charged with attempted involuntary manslaughter in California.


How Ronald MacGregor Convinced the Court


Ronald MacGregor, the first attorney to raise this issue in California, believes the accomplishment to be common sense. “The evidence is in the laws themselves, which are a clear contradiction. To establish an attempt to commit a crime, two essential elements must be present: (1) a specific intent to commit that crime, and (2) a direct act done towards its commission. Manslaughter is defined by the Penal Code as unlawful killing of a human being without malice (PC 192). The code prescribes two ways in which the crime of “involuntary manslaughter” may be committed (excluding vehicular manslaughter): (a) “in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony,” or (b) “in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumstance (PC 192(2)).


“An attempt to commit involuntary manslaughter would require that the defendant intent to perpetrate an unintentional killing a logical impossibility. This conclusion is supported by the property of another however great the danger or extreme the negligence. There can be no attempt to commit involuntary manslaughter. The consequence involved in that crime is the death of the victim and an act done with intent to achieve this, if an attempt at all, is attempted murder. It is of the essence of involuntary manslaughter that the consequence be produced either recklessly or negligently, but not intentionally. The court agreed and my client went free. It was as simple as that,” said Attorney MacGregor.


How It Changed the Legal Landscape


Since Ronald MacGregor’s victory, California courts no longer use the charge attempted involuntary manslaughter. It is much more common for someone to be charged with involuntary manslaughter or some form of attempted murder. Those facing criminal charges connected to a person’s death will rarely have the opportunity to convince the court that the charges themselves are not valid.


Ronald MacGregor advises all those who are facing misdemeanor or felony charges to consult with an experienced Orange County murder lawyer so that they may fully evaluate their options.

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