What is the Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Manslaughter?

It is sometimes said that the distinction between voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony, and involuntary manslaughter, a Class F felony, is a matter of intent. Involuntary manslaughter is frequently described an unintentional killing. That description fails, however, to fully distinguish the offenses since voluntary manslaughter also may be based on a death that the defendant did not intend.

Indeed, unlawfully killing another with the specific intent to do so is murder rather than either type of manslaughter. So what makes some unlawful but unintentional killings voluntary manslaughter and others involuntary manslaughter? It is the intent associated with the underlying act (such as the assault that proximately caused the victim’s death) as well as the nature of that act (was it a felony or inherently dangerous versus simply culpably negligent) that makes the difference.

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