Washington Manslaughter Laws

When a person kills someone, regardless of intent or other details surrounding the incident, it is generally called a homicide. This includes manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter charges.

Essentially, manslaughter charges indicate that the defendant had no intention to kill the victim and didn't plan it beforehand. However, his actions were reckless or negligent enough that he could have avoided killing if he'd acted appropriately.

In Washington the state recognizes several different types of related crimes: first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter and vehicular homicide.

First-Degree Manslaughter in Washington

In Washington, first-degree manslaughter occurs when a person:

  • Recklessly causes the death of another person; or
  • Intentionally and unlawfully kills an unborn child by inflicting an injury upon the mother.

Second-Degree Manslaughter in Washington

A person is guilty of second-degree manslaughter when, with criminal negligence, he causes the death of another person.

Vehicular Homicide

Vehicular homicide is defined as a death caused by any type of motor vehicle, including a car, SUV, taxi, motorcycle, truck, or bus. Under state law, any death that occurs within 3 (three) years after an auto accident can be considered vehicular homicide if the accident was caused by another driver’s negligence.

The driver can be found guilty of vehicular homicide if he or she was doing any of the following and someone died as a result:

  • Driving recklessly
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (INSERT WA DUI ARTICLE LINK)
  • Driving without regard for the safety of others.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Washington's manslaughter and vehicular homicide laws. See also Voluntary Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter, First Degree Murder Defenses, and First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing .

Code Sections

First Degree Manslaughter: RCW 9A.32.060

Second Degree Manslaughter: RCW 9A.32.070

Vehicular Homicide: RCW 46.61.520

What is Prohibited

See Above Definitions

Enhancements There are enhancements that also apply if manslaughter offense is committed with a firearm or a deadly weapon

First Degree Manslaughter: Class A Felony, Maximum of life without the possibility of parole and a fine.

Second Degree Manslaughter: Class B Felony

Vehicular Homicide: Class A Felony, but punishment depends upon how the crime happened and the driver's prior criminal history.

Civil Case

Possible Wrongful Death lawsuit


If you do find yourself facing a manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter charge in Washington, you may wish to contact a criminal defense attorney for assistance.

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