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What Does "Involuntary Manslaughter" Mean?
- Occurs without the defendant intending for it to happen
- Occurs during the commission of a non-felony crime (such as misdemeanor theft)
- Results from criminal negligence such as overloading a passenger vessel
For example, if a killing occurred in connection with the defendant’s misdemeanor theft activity, they may face involuntary manslaughter charges. This is true even if the defendant didn’t intend for a killing to occur. Another example would be if a person's pet escapes their home and kills someone before being recovered. In fact, one of the main characteristics of involuntary manslaughter is that the defendant didn’t intend for a killing to occur.
Involuntary manslaughter is also called “second degree manslaughter,” with voluntary manslaughter being considered first degree. Any manslaughter not generally classified as voluntary manslaughter is included under involuntary manslaughter. Both vehicular manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter are typically classified as involuntary.
What Are the Legal Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter?
Involuntary manslaughter is one of the least serious types of homicide crimes. However, it is still classified as a felony under state and federal laws. Most states list involuntary manslaughter as a Class C or Class D felony. This can lead to legal penalties such as:
- Moderate to high criminal fines
- Prison sentences (usually ranging from 5-10 years)
- Required counseling courses
In many cases, alternative sentencing options or probation/parole may be available to the defendant, especially if it’s their first offense. On the other hand, aggravating factors may increase the sentence for the defendant (for example, if the killing involved the death of a police officer, woman, or child).
How Does Involuntary Manslaughter Compare with Voluntary Manslaughter?
The general crime of manslaughter is divided into two broad categories, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter. As discussed, involuntary manslaughter is usually unintentional, thus making it less serious than other forms of homicide like murder.
In contrast, voluntary manslaughter can sometimes involve intentional acts by the defendant. It is usually defined as a homicide that results from conditions involving self-defense, provocation, or that occurs during the commission of a felony
As such, voluntary manslaughter is generally more difficult to defend against than involuntary manslaughter charges. In some instances, voluntary manslaughter charges can be reduced to involuntary manslaughter if the various requirements can be proven.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Involuntary Manslaughter Charges?
Involuntary manslaughter is a somewhat technical area of criminal law, and generally requires the assistance of a qualified criminal defense attorney. You may wish to contact an experienced lawyer in your area if you have any questions or concerns, or are facing involuntary manslaughter charges. Your attorney can help guide you through the legal process and can identify possible defenses that are available to you.
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Last Modified: 10-10-2016 10:26 AM PDT
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