Difference Between Involuntary Manslaughter and Second Degree Murder

In People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290, the California Supreme Court highlighted the differences between involuntary manslaughter and second degree murder as follows: "Criminal negligence has been defined as the exercise of so slight a degree of care as to raise a presumption of conscious indifference to the consequences. On the other hand, malice may be implied when a person, knowing that his conduct endangers the life of another, nonetheless acts deliberately with conscious disregard for life. . . . Implied malice contemplates a subjective awareness of a higher degree of risk than does gross negligence, and involves an element of wantonness which is absent in gross negligence. Furthermore, we have applied different tests in determining the required mental states of gross negligence or malice. a finding of gross negligence is made by applying an objective test: if a reasonable person in defendant's position would have been aware of the risk involved, then defendant is presumed to have had such an awareness. However, a finding of implied malice depends upon a determination that the defendant actually appreciated the risk involved, i.e., a subjective standard." (Id. at pp. 296-297.)