Involuntary Manslaughter

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia.

Involuntary Manslaughter

The act of unlawfully killing another human being unintentionally.

Most unintentional killings are not murder but involuntary manslaughter. The absence of the element of intent is the key distinguishing factor between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. In most states involuntary manslaughter results from an improper use of reasonable care or skill while performing a legal act, or while committing an act that is unlawful but not felonious.

Many states do not define involuntary manslaughter, or define it vaguely in common-law terms. Some jurisdictions describe the amount of Negligence necessary to constitute manslaughter with terms such as criminal negligence, gross negligence, and culpable negligence. The only certainty that can be attached to these terms is that they require more than the ordinary negligence standard in a civil case. With this approach the state does not have to prove that the defendant was aware of the risk.

Other jurisdictions apply more subjective tests, such as "reckless" or "wanton," to describe the amount of negligence needed to constitute involuntary manslaughter. In this approach the defendant must have personally appreciated a risk and then chosen to take it anyway.

There are two types of involuntary manslaughter statutes: criminally negligent manslaughter and unlawful act manslaughter. Criminally negligent manslaughter occurs when death results from a high degree of negligence or recklessness. Modern criminal codes generally require a consciousness of risk and under some codes the absence of this element makes the offense a less serious Homicide.

An omission to act or a failure to perform a duty constitutes criminally negligent manslaughter. The existence of the duty is essential. Since the law does not recognize that an ordinary person has a duty to aid or rescue another in distress, a death resulting from an ordinary person's failure to act is not manslaughter. On the other hand, an omission by someone who has a duty, such as a failure to attempt to save a drowning person by a lifeguard, might constitute involuntary manslaughter.

In many jurisdictions death that results from the operation of a vehicle in a criminally negligent manner is punishable as a separate offense. Usually it is considered a less severe offense than involuntary manslaughter. These jurisdictions usually call the offense reckless homicide, negligent homicide, or vehicular homicide. One reason for this lesser offense is the reluctance of juries to convict automobile drivers of manslaughter.

Unlawful act manslaughter occurs when someone causes a death while committing or attempting to commit an unlawful act, usually a misdemeanor. Some states distinguish between conduct that is malum in se (bad in itself) and conduct that is malum prohibitum (bad because it is prohibited by law). Conduct that is malum in se is based on common-law definitions of crime; for example, an Assault and Battery could be classified as malum in se. Acts that are made illegal by legislation—for example, reckless driving—are malum prohibitum. In states that use this distinction, an act must be malum in se to constitute manslaughter. If an act is malum prohibitum, it is not manslaughter unless the person who committed it could have foreseen that death would be a direct result of the act.

In other states this distinction is not made. If death results from an unlawful act, the person who committed the act may be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter even if the act was malum prohibitum. Courts will uphold unlawful act manslaughter where the statute was intended to prevent injury to another person.


Criminal Negligence; Gross Negligence.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"The only verbal conduct punished as involuntary manslaughter has been the wanton or reckless pressuring of a vulnerable person to commit suicide, overpowering that person's will to live and resulting in that person's death," Kafker wrote.
"Inside Edition's" chief correspondent, Jim Moret, was the first to report in July 2009 that Murray could be investigated for involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson the surgical anesthetic Propofol as a sleep aid, said a spokeswoman for the show.
Murray, 58, has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
The charges against Rattanavong are involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm, rather than murder or voluntary manslaughter.
If we research the crime of homicide in the Romanian and English systems, we will surely find terms such as "omorul," "omor calificat," ("omor deosebit de grav"--Romanian Penal Code from 1969), "pruncuciderea," "uciderea din culpa," "determinarea sau inlesnirea sinuciderii," "homicide," "manslaughter," "voluntary manslaughter," "involuntary manslaughter," "constructive manslaughter," "gross negligence manslaughter" and "murder."
For his crime, Eliaderani was given the maximum prison sentence of five years after he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
US Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said he was making the ruling in the case of Dr Conrad Murray, 57, pictured, based on his earlier ruling that Murray must stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Jackson.
Lawyers for Conrad Murray told a hearing - to decide whether he stands trial for involuntary manslaughter - that it was possible the singer injected himself with the powerful anaesthetic propofol.
However, they said that the Public Attorney had released two industrial officials working at the local city council on a LE5, 000 bail each after accusing them of involuntary manslaughter and negligence that had led to the workers' death.
Conrad Murray, who lives in Las Vegas, pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death that officials have ruled was due mainly to an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol, among several drugs.
They are facing charges of negligence and involuntary manslaughter.
Caceres of involuntary manslaughter, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (chair), and assault and battery in connection with the Oct.

Full browser ?