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Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter

Note: This law applies only to Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter offenses allegedly committed on or after 1 January 2019.

What is Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter?

Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter military defense attorneysThe Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the cornerstone of military law, defining legal standards and offenses specific to service members. Among the serious offenses outlined in the UCMJ is Article 119, which pertains to manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter, in particular, is a grave charge that warrants a detailed understanding.

Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person unlawfully kills another human being in the heat of passion caused by adequate provocation. It differs from murder primarily due to the presence of mitigating circumstances that lower the culpability from murder to manslaughter. For instance, a homicide that happens after a sudden quarrel or in a moment of intense emotional disturbance may fall under voluntary manslaughter.

Understanding Voluntary Manslaughter Under Article 119 UCMJ

For a conviction under Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter, the prosecution must establish that:

  • The accused unlawfully killed a human being; and
  • The killing was intentional or occurred during an act inherently dangerous to others, yet without premeditation.

The Role of an Experienced Military Defense Lawyer

Being charged with voluntary manslaughter in the military context is a daunting situation. The consequences can be severe, including long-term imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, and a permanent mark on a service member’s record. An experienced military defense lawyer is crucial for navigating these complex legal waters. They can provide essential insights into the nuances of military law, examine evidence, and develop a robust defense strategy.

The stakes are high, and a thorough defense tailored to your case’s unique aspects is essential. At Gonzalez & Waddington, we understand the intricacies of the UCMJ and are committed to defending those who have dedicated their lives to serving our country.

Military Defense Lawyers for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter Cases

Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter is a severe charge with life-changing implications. If you or a loved one is facing such a charge, seeking legal representation from a military defense lawyer who can protect your rights and build a strong defense is imperative. Your future may depend on the quality of your defense strategy.

What are the Elements of Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter?

  1. That (state the name or description of the alleged victim) is dead;
  2. That (his) (her) death resulted from the (act) (omission) of the accused in (state the act or omission alleged) at (state the time and place alleged);
  3. That the killing of (state the name or description of the alleged victim) by the accused was unlawful; and
  4. That, at the time of the killing, the accused had the intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon (state the name or description of the alleged victim).

What are the Elements of Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter of a child under 16 years of age?

  1. That (state the name or description of the alleged victim) is dead;
  2. That (his) (her) death resulted from the (act) (omission) of the accused in (state the act or omission alleged) at (state the time and place alleged);
  3. That the killing of (state the name or description of the alleged victim) by the accused was unlawful;
  4. That, at the time of the killing, the accused had the intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon (state the name or description of the alleged victim); and.
  5. That (state the name or description of the alleged victim) was a child under the age of 16 years.

What are the Maximum Punishments for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter?

Maximum Punishment for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter committed between 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Dec 2023:

  • 15 Years of Confinement
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction

Maximum Punishment for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter committed after 27 Dec 2023

  • Under the Sentencing Parameters, Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter is a Category 4 Offense – Confinement from 120-240 months (10 to 20 years)
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction
  • Note: The Military Judge MAY impose a period of confinement less than the jurisdictional maximum period of confinement upon finding specific facts that warrant such a sentence. Manual for Courts-Martial, United States (2024 ed.), Appendix 12B-C

Maximum Punishment for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter of a child under 16 years of age committed between 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Dec 2023:

  • 20 Years of Confinement
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction

Maximum Punishment for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter of a child under 16 years of age committed after 27 Dec 2023

  • Under the Sentencing Parameters, Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter is a Category 4 Offense – Confinement from 120-240 months (10 to 20 years)
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction
  • Note: The Military Judge MAY impose a period of confinement less than the jurisdictional maximum period of confinement upon finding specific facts that warrant such a sentence. Manual for Courts-Martial, United States (2024 ed.), Appendix 12B-C

Combined UCMJ Maximum Punishment Charts

Sample Specifications for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter

In that YN1 Mario Ramirez, US Navy, did at or near San Diego Navy Base, California, on or about 14 May 2025, willfully and unlawfully kill PO2 Steve Smith by striking him on the head with a baseball bat.

Model Specifications for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter

In that _______ (personal jurisdiction data), did, (at/on board–location), on or about ______, willfully and unlawfully kill _______, (a child under 16 years of age) by ______ (him) (her) (in) (on) the __________ with a __________.

What are the Definitions for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter?

Killing a human being is unlawful when done without legal justification or excuse.

Sudden passion is not an element in an Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter case.

When voluntary manslaughter is the charged offense, the existence of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation is not an element. The following instructions may be appropriate:

The offense of voluntary manslaughter is committed when a person, with intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation.

The heat of passion may result from fear or rage. Proof that the accused acted in the heat of passion caused by adequate provocation is not required. It is essential, however, that the (four) (five) elements I have listed for you be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before the accused can be convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

Capacity to form the specific intent in an Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter case

Instructions 6-5, Partial Mental Responsibility, Instruction 5-17, Evidence Negating Mens Rea; and Instruction 5-12, Voluntary Intoxication, may be applicable as bearing upon the accused’s capacity to formulate the specific intent required for voluntary manslaughter. If such capacity is in issue, instructions must be given on involuntary manslaughter and other lesser included offenses that may be raised by the entire evidence in the case.

Transferred intent and Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter.

When the issue of transferred intent is raised by the evidence, the following instructions should be given:

When an individual with intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm attempts unlawfully to kill or to inflict great bodily harm upon a person (while in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation), but, by mistake or inadvertence, kills another person, the individual is still criminally responsible for the killing with the intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm because the intent is transferred from the intended victim of (his) (her) action to the actual victim.

Suppose you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim is dead and that his/her death resulted from the unlawful (act) (failure to act) of the accused in (state the act or failure to act alleged) with intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon (state the name or description of the individual other than the victim). In that case, you may still find the accused guilty of the voluntary manslaughter of (state the name or description of the alleged victim).

The accused’s knowledge of the child’s age in an Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter case

When the alleged victim is a child under the age of 16 years, provide the following instructions:

Knowledge that (state the name or description of the alleged victim) was under the age of 16 years is not an element of the offense.

Accordingly, if you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that (state the name of the alleged victim) was under the age of 16 years at the time of the alleged offense, you are advised that the prosecution is not required to prove that the accused knew that (state the name of the alleged victim) was under the age of 16 years at the time of the alleged offense. It is not a defense to voluntary manslaughter upon a child even if the accused reasonably believed that (state the name of the alleged victim) was at least 16 years old.

Causation in an Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter case

If an issue is raised regarding whether the act or failure to act on the part of the accused caused the death of the victim, it would be necessary to instruct on lesser included offenses not involving the death of the victim, e.g., aggravated assault.

Brain death instruction in Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter cases

The military standard for death includes brain death. An individual is dead who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of spontaneous respiration and circulatory functions or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain, including the brain stem. See US v. Gomez, 15 MJ 954 (ACMR 1983); US v. Jefferson, 22 MJ 315 (CMA 1986); and US v. Taylor, 44 MJ 254 (CAAF 1996). Instruction 7-24, Brain Death, may be adapted for this circumstance.

Other instructions for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter

  • Instruction 7-3, Circumstantial Evidence (Intent), is ordinarily applicable.

Overview of Article Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter

Article 119 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses voluntary manslaughter, a serious offense distinct from murder due to the absence of malice aforethought. Voluntary manslaughter involves the unlawful killing of another person in the heat of passion caused by adequate provocation. This means that the accused must have acted in a moment of intense emotional disturbance without premeditation or a pre-existing intent to kill.

Hiring a Military Defense Lawyer for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter

The provocation must be significant enough to incite an ordinary person to lose self-control. In a military context, voluntary manslaughter often arises in situations where stress, confrontation, or sudden conflict escalates rapidly. Conviction under Article 119 can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, and forfeiture of pay and allowances, though typically less severe than those for murder.

Selecting the Best Military Defense Lawyers for Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter

The prosecution must prove that the killing was intentional and resulted from provocation that would cause a reasonable person to act irrationally. Defenses against a voluntary manslaughter charge may include arguing the lack of adequate provocation or demonstrating that the accused did not act in the heat of passion.

Given its severe implications, Article 119 underscores the military’s commitment to discipline and accountability, ensuring that even in cases of intense emotional disturbance, unlawful killings are met with significant consequences. This provision balances the understanding of human emotional response with the necessity of maintaining order and justice within the armed forces.

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