In cases where a person’s death is involved, the defendant may be charged with homicide, murder, and voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. The case classification will depend on the case’s circumstances and the intent and mindset of the accused.
A case may be classified as involuntary manslaughter when the accused unintentionally killed another person due to criminal negligence or recklessness. Though not as severe as murder or voluntary manslaughter, being convicted with involuntary manslaughter may still destroy your career and limit future opportunities.
Accident as a Defense to Involuntary Manslaughter
Accidents often happen, and a lot of them usually don’t involve negligence or recklessness. This means that the defense can claim that the defendant didn’t act irresponsibly or have any idea that his actions would result in another person’s death.
For this particular defense to hold up, the reason should prove that the person’s death was not a result of the accused’s irresponsible actions or negligence. The defense could also add that the defendant was unaware that his actions could have resulted in another person’s death.
Example: A golf ball hits the head of another player, and upon falling, he breaks his neck and dies. In this case, the golfer had no criminal intent, was not acting negligently, and was otherwise acting lawfully at the time of the killing.
Self-Defense as an Involuntary Manslaughter Defense
In some state jurisdictions, they allow the acquittal of involuntary manslaughter charges if the accused can prove that they reasonably thought they were protecting another person or themselves from impending death or severe harm.
When using self-defense as an involuntary manslaughter defense, you must remember that you’d need to prove that you acted reasonably under the circumstances and didn’t use more force than was necessary.
Example: An armed robber enters your home at night; you reach under your bed for your gun and fatally shoot him in the head just as he cocks his gun to shoot your son in the other room. If the robber was not armed, using self-defense as your defense may not hold up since there wouldn’t have been a reasonable expectation that you or your son’s life was in imminent danger.
Insufficient Evidence as a Defense to Involuntary Manslaughter
When it comes to proving cases involving another person’s death, it is much easier to prove involuntary manslaughter cases than a murder case. This is because criminal intent is required to prove murder. However, the prosecutors still have the burden of proof in both instances.
To get you acquitted, the criminal defense attorney may dispute the prosecution’s case by asking for more investigation, a reexamination of the interviews with witnesses and existing evidence, and other legal tactics. Attorneys usually do these to make even the slightest amount of doubt so that the jury may not convict the defendant.
Defense attorneys also want to ensure that the evidence won’t support a causal link between the defendant and the unintentional killing, and if possible, prove that the prosecution obtained the evidence illegally. Thus, a conviction might not be secured.
Example: While driving, a truck driver suddenly struck and killed a pedestrian at night. He was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter after the incident. Upon interviewing the eyewitnesses, some say that the truck driver was speeding, while others claim the opposite. Furthermore, the defense presents a witness who states that the victim was wearing a dark jacket and black pants, appeared to be drunk, and walked unexpectedly into the path of the driver’s truck.
With these evidentiary records, the prosecutor will have a hard time securing a conviction.
Schedule an appointment with criminal defense attorney Thomas C. Grajek today if you’re facing involuntary manslaughter charges in Florida.
Wrongfully Accused as an Involuntary Manslaughter Defense
There are instances when the defendant can claim that he didn't do the crime. This means that the defense claims that the prosecution has the wrong suspect and that the actual criminal is still out there.
This is a good defense since, in some instances, the criminal may accuse others of covering his tracks, and other times, the defendant was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Occasionally, overzealous police officers feel anxious if they won’t present a suspect to the district attorney.
In any instance, the prosecution will have to prove that the defendant is indeed the one who committed the crime.
Example: A car speeds through a red light and accidentally hits and kills a boy who was crossing the street, and then flees the scene. The majority of the eyewitnesses give the suspect’s exact description, but other witnesses provide a different story. Nevertheless, the officers still decide to go with the majority and arrest an individual who matches the description.
For the defendant to be convicted, the prosecutors will need better evidence since it is possible that the defendant is not the real criminal. If you have been involved in a car accident like this one, you might need an excellent car accident attorney.
Other Defenses to Involuntary Manslaughter
Aside from the defenses above, here are other defenses to involuntary manslaughter that your attorney can use:
Excusable Homicide - Florida law excuses the killing of someone in the following three circumstances:
- The killing occurred on accident while the individual was engaged in a lawful act with due caution and without malicious intent; or
- The killing occurred on accident in the heat of passion resulting from sudden and sufficient provocation; or
- The killing occurred accidentally from a sudden combat, without using a dangerous weapon and not cruelly or unusually.
Justifiable Homicide - Your use of deadly force resulted from someone attempting to kill or commit a felony against you.
Florida Involuntary Manslaughter Attorney
If you're charged with taking someone’s life, you need to have a quality legal expert on your side regardless of the circumstances. Learn more about possible defenses and your options by contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney in Florida.
Contact Thomas C. Grajek today.
Defenses to Involuntary Manslaughter FAQs
Can a person be charged with involuntary manslaughter if he forgot to fasten the seatbelt on his child?
Yes. Involuntary manslaughter doesn’t always follow the illegal actions of an individual. It can also occur when a person performs perfectly legal actions in a reckless fashion. For example, if a father fails to secure his child on the car seat properly, and as a result, the child died due to a car accident, the father could be charged with involuntary manslaughter for negligence.
Can I also be charged with civil liabilities on top of the involuntary manslaughter charge?
Yes. Besides the manslaughter charge, you may also be sued for wrongful death. This means that you may have to pay for the substantial monetary damages that will be awarded against you. These fines are related to the damages that the wrongful death suit has caused.
How does the government deal with involuntary manslaughter committed at sea?
If an involuntary manslaughter case is committed at sea, the person at fault can still be charged since the federal law governs aspects of maritime law and crimes committed at sea. The federal court can set special maritime penalties, which include eight years of jail time along with fines.
What are the penalties for involuntary manslaughter?
When a person has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, he/ she may receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, up to 15 years of probation, and up to $10,000 worth of fines. However, if the defendant committed manslaughter of a child or older person by culpable negligence, the potential term of imprisonment increases to a maximum of 30 years.
What is aggravated manslaughter?
Aggravated manslaughter is almost the same as involuntary manslaughter. The only difference is that aggravated manslaughter is charged to a person if the victim is an elderly person or a child. Aggravated manslaughter is considered a first-degree felony, which can carry a sentence of 30 years jail time.
What is criminal negligence?
Your actions will be considered criminally negligent if they deviate from how a reasonable person would act or if your actions disregarded the safety of human life. If you are working with criminal negligence and accidentally cause another person’s death, they may charge you with involuntary manslaughter.