Involuntary Manslaughter: Penalties and Sentencing

Involuntary manslaughter differs from murder or other homicides in that there is no premeditation or intent to kill. Instead, it criminalizes lawful as well as unlawful acts that are carried out in a negligent or reckless manner.

As a result, involuntary manslaughter typically has significantly lighter penalties compared with other similar criminal offenses. However, those convicted do not get off completely scot-free either. While the penalties for involuntary manslaughter vary from state to state, it is often treated as a felony on both the federal and state level.

Federal Law & Involuntary Manslaughter

The U.S. Code defines involuntary manslaughter as an unlawful killing without malice or conduct meant to intentionally kill someone, but the act was committed in an unlawful manner that might lead to death. In simpler terms, this is when a person acts recklessly or without caution and causes a death. It is considered to be a Class C felony offense.

For juveniles charged with involuntary manslaughter, federal law may give the state in which the crime occurred authority to prosecute these matters. However, the U.S. Attorney in the federal district may decide to prosecute the case if there is a substantial federal interest. As a result, a juvenile convicted in federal court may be facing penalties similar to an adult.

Penalties at the Federal Level

Federal sentencing guidelines instill a base penalty of a ten to sixteen months imprisonment for an involuntary manslaughter conviction. Generally, the more extensive criminal record a person has, the more the minimum sentencing requirements increase. Other factors that increase the base sentence include:

  • The number of counts of involuntary manslaughter you are facing
  • If you are facing other criminal charges
  • Whether your conduct is considered criminally negligent or reckless
  • If you have previously been convicted of involuntary manslaughter
  • Whether you were under the influence while operating a motor vehicle

Special Maritime Penalties

Since federal law governs aspects of maritime law and crimes committed at sea, it sets penalties for involuntary manslaughter under these circumstances as well. The maximum penalty under federal law for involuntary manslaughter is eight years imprisonment along with fines.

State Law & Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter, sometimes referred to as criminally negligent homicide, is considered a Class C or Class D felony offense in most states. Generally, each state’s laws will propose a range of sentences, and a judge will have discretion as to which sentence to hand down.

Courts will generally take into consideration aggravating and mitigating factors in coming to sentencing decisions. Typically, the resulting sentences include penalties such as fines, five to ten years in prison, and occasionally require counseling. However, the penalties can vary greatly from state to state.

See all 50 state penalties for involuntary manslaughter in detail below.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors for Sentencing

Each involuntary manslaughter case will differ from the next one, with some factors having an effect on the severity of the crime. The judge will take these into consideration when determining sentencing after a conviction.

Mitigating Factors

When the court is considering how to sentence a person convicted of a crime, there are a number of factors that mitigate, or ease the severity of the repercussions for their criminal act. Mitigating factors in an involuntary manslaughter case can include:

  • Facts and circumstances surrounding the crime
  • Little to no criminal history
  • Accepting responsibility or showing genuine remorse for the crime
  • Any mental or physical illnesses
  • The ability of the person being convicted to reform
  • Good deeds or contributions to their community

Aggravating Factors

Aggravating factors have the opposite effect, increasing the severity of the crime and subsequently the penalties come time for sentencing. For involuntary manslaughter, some state courts consider factors such as:

  • Reckless conduct contributed to the crime
  • Criminal history or reckless behavior
  • Killing a minor, elderly person, or person with a physical or mental illness
  • Killing a member of law enforcement or military servicemember

Vehicular Manslaughter

Depending upon the jurisdiction and the circumstances, killing a person in a motor vehicle accident may be considered involuntary manslaughter, specifically vehicular manslaughter. Some states may consider a person guilty of vehicular manslaughter while committing a felony with the vehicle or while driving recklessly.

For a number of states, if an individual is drunk behind the wheel of a car and strikes a pedestrian or causes an accident that results in the death of another person, then the impaired driver is guilty of vehicular manslaughter.

Penalties for Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter penalties vary greatly and often depend on the specific facts of the case. If there are no aggravating factors, a person convicted of vehicular manslaughter may typically be imprisoned for four years or less.

In other states like Ohio, those found guilty of vehicular manslaughter can face imprisonment for up to 90 days and a suspension of their drivers’ license for up to three years. However, if the driver did not have a valid license or had any prior convictions for similar offenses, they could instead face six months in jail.

Aggravating Factors

One of the most significant aggravating factors is intoxication. For example, for an individual who has previously been convicted of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the California Penal Code imposes a sentence of fifteen years to life in prison, and some jurisdictions additionally impose restrictions on parole.

Involuntary Manslaughter Penalties by State

Alabama

The Alabama Codes refers to involuntary manslaughter as criminally negligent homicide. It is typically treated as a Class A misdemeanor, with the maximum sentencing requirements being one-year imprisonment and/or $6,000 in fines.

If the crime occurs when a person is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is treated as a Class C Felony. This comes with a minimum sentence of one year plus one day with a maximum of ten years imprisonment, along with potentially paying up to $15,000 in fines. For those previously convicted of felonies, the charge may be elevated to a Class A or B felony offense and be subject to additional penalties.

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Alaska

Alaska uses criminally negligent homicide to refer to involuntary manslaughter. The Alaska Statute also defines a separate offense of criminally negligent homicide of an unborn child.

Traditionally, both crimes are treated as a Class B felony but may be increased to a greater degree depending on previous convictions. A conviction could mean facing up to ten years imprisonment and imposing a fine up to $100,000, but these penalties may increase depending on the circumstances of the crime.

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Arizona

The Arizona Revised Statutes refers to this crime as negligent homicide, including the causing the death of a person or an unborn child, and considered a Class 4 felony. Arizona organizes its sentencing into a number of categories. For a first-time offender, a conviction of negligent homicide may impose a prison sentence of:

  • One year with mitigating factors
  • One year and six months as the minimum without mitigating factors
  • Two years and six months as the presumptive amount the court typically gives
  • Three years as the maximum without aggravating factors
  • Three years and nine months with aggravating factors

Instead of having a separate crime for vehicular manslaughter, Arizona law simply treats this offense as manslaughter, a Class 2 felony with the following imprisonment standards:

  • Three years with mitigating factors
  • Four years as the minimum without mitigating factors
  • Five years as the presumptive amount the court typically gives
  • Ten years as the maximum without aggravating factors
  • Twelve years and six months with aggravating factors

Any fines to be paid are determined by the court but may not exceed $150,000. Additionally, these sentencing standards change for repeat or dangerous offenders. The court may impose an extra year of imprisonment if the crime occurred in a school safety zone.

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Arkansas

The Arkansas code refers to this offense as negligent homicide and typically is treated as a Class A misdemeanor. This comes with a maximum of one-year imprisonment along with up to $2,500 in fines as well.

If the crime occurred as a result of operating a vehicle, an aircraft, or a watercraft, it is considered a Class B felony. This includes instances of intoxication, fatigue, or passing a stopped school bus. If convicted, this could mean a sentence from five years up to twenty years imprisonment with a maximum fine of $15,000.

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California

The California Penal Code recognizes involuntary manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter as two separate crimes with different punishments. Involuntary manslaughter is treated as a felony, punishable from two to four years in a state prison with a fine up to $10,000.

Vehicular manslaughter is broken into three subdivisions based on the circumstances surrounding the crime with different imprisonment sentences:

  • Driving a vehicle with gross negligence in the commission of an unlawful act (not a felony) can lead to an sentence of two to six years in state prison
  • Driving a vehicle without gross negligence in the in the commission of an unlawful act (not a felony) can lead to an sentence of one year or less in county jail
  • Knowingly causing a vehicle to crash for financial gain may lead to a sentence of four to ten years in state prison

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Colorado

Although the statute does not use the term “involuntary manslaughter” exactly, Colorado law criminalized this offense into three possible offenses:

  • Manslaughter under Colorado law constitutes recklessly causes the death of another and it is a Class 4 Felony, eligible for a sentence of six years imprisonment, three years of mandatory parole, with a maximum fine of $500,000
  • Criminally negligent homicide is similar but Colorado law treats this as offenses that stem from conduct that is less reckless than manslaughter and comes with a sentence of potentially one to three years imprisonment, two years of mandatory parole, and anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 in fines as a Class 5 Felony
  • Vehicular homicide typically a Class 4 Felony for reckless driving but increases to a Class 3 Felony when drugs or alcohol are involved with a sentence of four to twelve years imprisonment and up to $750,000 in fines

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Connecticut

The Connecticut Penal code separates “involuntary manslaughter” into a number of different crimes with varying degrees of severity and penalties:

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Delaware

The Delaware Criminal Code does not have a specific offense called “involuntary manslaughter,” but it does enumerates a number of crimes describing this conduct:

  • Criminally negligent homicide: Class D Felony with a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine no more than $5,000
  • Manslaughter: Class B Felony for reckless and intentional conduct causing death other than murder providing a penalty of one to twenty years imprisonment and a fine no more than $15,000
  • Vehicular homicide in the first degree: Class C Felony for negligent driving or driving under the influence, eligible for one to ten years imprisonment and fines up to $10,000
  • Vehicular homicide in the second degree: Class D Felony for negligent driving and driving under the influence, with a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine no more than $5,000

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Florida

The Florida Statutes include involuntary manslaughter as a part of the crime of manslaughter or aggravated manslaughter. Instead of using terms like “involuntary” or “criminal negligence,” the statute describes it as “culpable negligence.” This refers to a person being responsible for the reckless conduct that caused the death of another.

Typically, it is considered a second-degree felony and a conviction for a first time offender may lead to a maximum sentence of fifteen years imprisonment along with up to $10,000 of fines. Those with criminal history or repeat violent offenders may be facing more serious penalties.

However, an aggravated manslaughter charge is a first-degree felony with a maximum sentence of thirty years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines. This includes situations such as causing the death of:

  • An elderly person or disabled adult
  • A child under the age of eighteen years old
  • An officer, firefight, paramedic, or emergency medical technician

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Georgia

The Georgia Code provides that involuntary manslaughter can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the lawfulness of the conduct that caused the death. Georgia has particularly strict sentencing laws, calling for a separate sentence for each death that occurs.

  • misdemeanor offense occurs when a person dies as a result of a lawful act. This comes with a maximum penalty of twelve months in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
  • A felony offense stems from unlawful conduct and can lead to a sentence of one to ten years imprisonment. However, a judge may decide to impose a misdemeanor punishment if they so choose, like in situations where there are mitigation factors.

Georgia treats deaths caused by reckless driving, fleeing a police officer, or driving under the influence as the crime of homicide by vehicle or feticide by vehicle. Typically, both crimes are first-degree felony offenses calling for three to fifteen years imprisonment, but there are often increased penalties for habitual offenders or drivers who have had their driver’s license revoked. Other deaths caused by motor vehicles are treated as misdemeanors.

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Hawaii

The Hawaii Revised Statutes provides three degrees of negligent homicide:

First degree negligent homicide is a Class B Felony with a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. A person commits this crime if they cause the death of another while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or causes the death of a vulnerable person while driving in a negligent manner.

Second degree negligent homicide is a Class C Felony with a maximum sentence of five years and a fine of up to $10,000. A person commits this crime if they cause the death of another while operating the vehicle in a negligent manner or causes the death of a vulnerable person while driving in a simple negligent manner.

Third degree negligent homicide is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. A person commits this crime if they cause the death of another while operating the vehicle in a manner that constitutes simple negligence.

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Idaho

Both involuntary and vehicular manslaughter are included as types of manslaughter in the Idaho Statutes definition of the general crime, but each kind comes with separate penalties.

Involuntary manslaughter in Idaho is a felony offense and applies negligent conduct in general as well as any recklessness, negligence, or carelessness while operating a deadly weapon that produces death. If convicted, this offense has a maximum sentence of ten years in state prison along with up to $10,000 of fines.

Idaho divides vehicular manslaughter into three kinds with distinct penalties. However, if the victim was a parent, the court may order the convicted to pay support to minors until the child turns eighteen and may have their driver’s license suspended.

  • Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is considered a felony with a maximum sentence of ten years in state prison along with up to $10,000 of fines.
  • Vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or aggravated driving under the influence is a felony that comes with a maximum sentence of fifteen years imprisonment and up to a $15,000 fine.
  • Vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence is treated as a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.

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Illinois

The Illinois Criminal Code divides this Class 3 Felony offense into two general categories with a sentence of two to five years imprisonment along with up to a $25,000 fine.

Involuntary manslaughter applies to reckless conduct causing death in general. Reckless homicide applies if a person was killed by operating a motor vehicle, snowmobile, watercraft, or all-terrain vehicle.

There are some sentencing exceptions for reckless homicide in which the offense is elevated to a Class 2 Felony with different penalties:

  • The sentence increases to three to fourteen years imprisonment if the offense was committed in a school zone or construction zone, while refusing to comply with police or traffic control, or in the instances where the death is caused by a vehicle becoming airborne after using an incline
  • The sentence increases to six to twenty-eight years imprisonment if two or more people die from an offense considered a Class 2 Felony
  • The sentence increases to three to fourteen years imprisonment if the person killed is a peace officer, a member of emergency services, or a family member

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Indiana

The Indiana Code classifies involuntary manslaughter as the crime of killing another person while committing or attempting to commit a Level 5 or 6 Felony posing an inherent risk of serious bodily injury, Class A Misdemeanor posing an inherent risk of serious bodily injury, or battery.

It is considered a Level 5 Felony with a sentence of one to six years imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine, but the law gives an advisory sentence or suggestion of three years for this offense.

Additionally, the Indiana Code uses reckless homicide for the killing of another through reckless conduct and classifies it as a Level 5 Felony as well. Typically, this charge is brought in cases where the defendant caused the death while operating a motor vehicle and allows for the added penalty of a suspending the defendant’s drivers license for two to five years.

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Iowa

The Iowa Code considers involuntary manslaughter a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the type of conduct causing the death. Oftentimes, this offense is included in the indictment for those being charged with first- or second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter as well.

  • It is considered a Class D Felony when the conduct causes the death constitutes committing a public offense other than a forcible felony or escape. A conviction comes with a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment with a fine from $750 to $7,500.
  • Involuntary manslaughter is considered an aggravated misdemeanor when the death is caused by an act conducted in a manner that is likely to cause serious injury or death. A conviction comes with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment or a specific term of days in jail along with a fine between $625 to $6,250.

In Iowa, habitual offenders may have different minimum sentencing requirements and be subject to increased penalties.

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Kansas

The Kansas State Legislature classifies involuntary manslaughter as a felony but the level depends on the circumstances of the offense. If the victim was under six years old, the charge is considered a Class 3 Felony regardless of the circumstances.

Involuntary manslaughter as a Class 5 Person Felony has a maximum sentence of 34 months imprisonment with up to $300,000 in fines and applies to circumstances such as:

  • Reckless conduct causing the death of another
  • Causing a death while committing, attempting to commit, or flight from any felony, an inherently dangerous felony or misdemeanor enact to protect human life or safety
  • Causing a death while committing a lawful act in an unlawful manner

Involuntary manslaughter caused by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be a Class 3 or Class 4 Person Felony, depending on factors such as the number of prior offenses or level of intoxication. This comes with a fine up to $300,000 and with an increased maximum prison sentence depending on the circumstances specific to the defendant as well as the influencing substance.

For cases unrelated to alcohol or drug use, Kansas law also includes a separate crime of vehicular homicide. This offense requires the death to be caused by operating a motor vehicle, boat, airplane, or other vessel in a manner that creates an unreasonable risk and constitutes a material deviation from the reasonable operation of the vehicle. It is treated as a Class A Misdemeanor that comes with penalties such as up to one year in jail, up to $2,500 in fines, and a mandatory license revocation up to a year.

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Kentucky

The Kentucky Revised Statutes classifies involuntary manslaughter as manslaughter in the second degree and applies to wantonly causing death in situations like operating a motor vehicle, leaving a minor under eight years old in a motor vehicle under extreme circumstances, or a controlled substance causing the death.

It is considered a Class C Felony with penalties such as imprisonment for between five and ten years and fines between $10,000 and $1,000,000.

Kentucky also has a lesser charge of Class D Felony for reckless homicide which comes with a prison sentence of one to five years in prison if convicted.

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Louisiana

The Louisiana Revised Statute recognizes involuntary manslaughter as negligent homicide as well as vehicular homicide.

Negligent homicide is a felony charge that may be filed, for the death of a person through criminal negligence or by a dog or other animal where the owner was reckless or criminally negligent in their handling of the animal. A conviction can mean a sentence up to five years imprisonment along with up to $5,000 of fines. If the victim was under ten years old, then there is a minimum imprisonment penalty of at least two years with no eligibility for probation or parole before the sentence is complete.

If the negligent homicide was caused by the defendant operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, boat, or another vessel while under the influence, then Louisiana considers it a vehicular homicide. The standard penalty for this felony is between $2,000 and $15,000 in fines with between five- and thirty-years imprisonment, of which the first three years are not eligible for parole, probation, or any suspension of the sentence.

The penalties increase for this offense depending on blood alcohol concentration level and any prior offenses. There is an additional requirement to enroll in a substance abuse program and some courts require driver improvement programs as well.

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Maine

The Maine Criminal Code states that a person who causes the death of another by reckless or criminally negligent actions may be guilty of the Class A crime of manslaughter. It does not have a separate statute for involuntary manslaughter like a number of other states and includes it under manslaughter.

The penalties for a conviction are severe, calling for a maximum sentence of thirty years imprisonment with a fine up to $50,000. If the victim was killed as a result of the defendant operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, there are also sanctions including the suspension or revocation of the defendant’s driver’s license.

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Maryland

The Maryland Code does not include involuntary manslaughter in the manslaughter statute, but instead relies on common law, meaning precedent set by court cases. The courts treat involuntary manslaughter as a felony caused by the unintentionally killing another while:

  • Performing an unlawful act
  • Acting with gross negligence, or
  • Negligently failing to perform a legal duty

This offense follows the same sentencing requirements as manslaughter, so a conviction of involuntary manslaughter could mean up to ten years imprisonment along with up to $5,000 in fines.

There are a number of statutes that address homicide by motor vehicle, or what many refer to as vehicular homicide.

  • Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is a felony punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison and/or $5,000 fine
  • Vehicular manslaughter with criminal negligence is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of three years in prison and a fine up to $5,000
  • Vehicular homicide while impaired by alcoholdrugs, or a controlled dangerous substance is a felony punishable by a maximum five years imprisonment and a fine up to $5,000

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Massachusetts

According to the Massachusetts General Laws, the felony of involuntary manslaughter is an unlawful killing caused by the defendant’s reckless conduct or the result of battery. It is punishable by a maximum of twenty years in state prison or a $1,000 fine and up to two and a half years in jail. However, there are some circumstances that give rise to a penalty of a life sentence in prison such as:

  • Possessing or controlling of incendiary device or hoax device
  • Throwing, secreting, launching or placing of incendiary device
  • Causing a malicious explosion
  • Possessing or using a biological, chemical, or nuclear weapon or delivery system

Massachusetts also has a statute for homicide by vehicle, extensively covering different circumstances for each offense and their penalties.

The felony of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration over .08 or under the influence and recklessly or negligently endangering the public comes with the maximum penalties of:

  • Two and a half to fifteen years in state prison and a fine up to $5,000, or
  • One to two and a half years in jail and a fine up to $5,000

The misdemeanor of operating a motor vehicle with either a blood alcohol concentration over .08 or under the influence or negligently endangering the public comes with the maximum penalties of thirty days to two and a half years in jail, $300 to $3,000 in fines, or both.

The misdemeanor of operating a motor vehicle recklessly endangering the public comes with the maximum penalties of two and half years maximum in jail, maximum of five years in state prison, a fine up to $3,000, or both a form of imprisonment and a fine.

Manslaughter by motor vehicle provides that those who commit a felony homicide by motor vehicle or commit manslaughter while operating a school bus may have elevated penalties of five to twenty years in state prison along with a maximum of $25,000 in fines.

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Michigan

In recent years, Michigan repealed the sections of the Penal Code that specifically address reckless or negligent conduct causing death. However, now the state looks to the section on manslaughter to determine the appropriate penalties and common law to define the offence. It is a felony offense with a maximum penalty of fifteen years imprisonment along with a maximum fine of $7,500.

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Minnesota

The Minnesota Statutes cover deaths caused by negligence with the felony crime of manslaughter in the second degree and it has a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment along with up to $20,000 in fines. A person may be found guilty of this offense under circumstances such as:

  • Their negligent conduct creates an unreasonable risk, knowing it may cause great bodily harm or death
  • By killing another with a firearm or other dangerous weapon as the result of negligently believing they were shooting a deer or other animal
  • By setting a dangerous device such as a snare, deadfall, pitfall, spring gun, or other device
  • By negligently or intentionally letting an animal with known vicious propensities to run uncontrolled
  • By committing or attempting to commit the offense of child endangerment that results in the death of the child

Minnesota has a separate felony offense for criminal vehicular homicide, punishable by a maximum of ten years imprisonment along with up to $20,000 in fines but may increase to a maximum of fifteen years if there is a history of related offenses.

For a conviction, the defendant must have been operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, has knowledge of defective maintenance that caused the death, or leaves the scene of a deadly accident the defendant caused.

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Mississippi

The Mississippi Code includes a number of criminal offenses that address a person unintentionally causing the death of another under circumstances such as:

  • By any other means of culpable negligence not listed
  • A child under eighteen years old
  • While committing felony
  • While committing a misdemeanor
  • Unnecessarily while resisting the other from committing a felony or unlawful act
  • While administering medical care or acting as a “drunken doctor”
  • By negligently overloading boat
  • By ignorant or negligent management of steamboat or railroad engine
  • By failing to take ordinary care or confine a dangerous animal one owns

These offenses are considered felonies punishable by a maximum sentence of twenty years imprisonment along with a minimum fine of $500.

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Missouri

Involuntary manslaughter in the first degree requires the defendant to recklessly cause the death of another person. It is a Class C Felony punishable by up to seven years imprisonment with a fine up to $10,000 but it is a Class B Felony if the victim was an intentionally targeted law enforcement officer or relative of the defendant, punishable by five to fifteen years imprisonment.

Involuntary manslaughter in the second degree occurs when the defendant’s criminally negligent conduct causes the death of another. It is a Class E Felony punishable by up to four years imprisonment with a fine up to $10,000 but it is a Class D Felony punishable up to seven years imprisonment if the victim was an intentionally targeted law enforcement officer or relative of the defendant.

Although Missouri does not have a specific criminal offense for vehicular manslaughter, those charged with a felony DUI may also be charged with second degree murder. One of the circumstances that may lead to a second-degree murder charge is when a person who causes the death of another while committing or attempting to commit a felony.

It is a Class A Felony that may be punishable by ten to thirty years imprisonment. However, those convicted of second-degree murder will also face penalties for the felony crime committed or attempted that caused the death itself.

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Montana

Montana law provides that a person who negligently causes the death of another commits the crime of negligent homicide. It is a felony punishable up to twenty years imprisonment, fined up to $50,000, or both.

Vehicular homicide is the felony offense of causing the death of another from the negligent operating of a motor vehicle under the influence of THC, drugs or alcohol, or with a BAC over specific limits. It comes with a maximum penalty over thirty years imprisonment, fined up to $50,000, or both.

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Nebraska

The Nebraska Revised Statutes establishes the crime of involuntary manslaughter within the definition of manslaughter in general. It is characterized as unintentionally causing the death of while in the commission of an unlawful act. It is considered a Class IIA felony, punishable by a maximum of twenty years imprisonment.

Motor vehicle homicide is Class I misdemeanor for a person who unintentionally causes the death of another while operating a motor vehicle in a manner that violates either state or local ordinance. There is no minimum penalty but the maximum sentence for this offense is one-year imprisonment, $1,000 fine, or both.

However, there are certain driving offenses that may trigger motor vehicle homicide to be elevated to a Class IIIA felony but may increase depending on the violation or past violations and may include sanctions on the defendant’s driver’s license. These offenses include:

  • Reckless driving or willfully reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Operating motor vehicle during revocation period

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Nevada

Nevada defines involuntary manslaughter as an unintentional killing of a human being in the commission of an unlawful act, or lawful act which probably might produce causing another death if carried out in an unlawful manner. It is a Category D felony, punishable by one to four years in state prison and the court may impose a fine up to $5,000.

Vehicular manslaughter occurs when a person driving a vehicle on a public area or highway causes the death of another through an act or failure to act of simple negligence. It is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail with a fine up to $1,000 and the conviction is reflected on the driving record of the convicted. If this offense occurs in a pedestrian or work zone, the penalties can be doubled.

There is a separate offense for causing a death from reckless driving. It is a Category B felony punishable by a maximum six years in state prison and a fine between $2,000 and $5,000.

Deaths caused by a failure to stop or fleeing from the police have even more severe penalties, calling for two to twenty years in state prison along with a fine up to $50,000.

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New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Criminal Code states that a person who recklessly causes the death of another is guilty of manslaughter. It is punishable by up to thirty years imprisonment.

If the death occurred as a result of recklessly operating a motor vehicle, the license of the drive may be revoked or in more severe cases, driving privileges may be terminated indefinitely.

If alcohol was involved, there may be an additional punishment for the convicted in the form of an ignition interlock device up to five years post-conviction.

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New Jersey

The New Jersey Criminal Code provides two degrees of manslaughter.

  • Aggravated manslaughter is the first-degree indictable offense for recklessly causing the death of another from acting in a way that constitutes an extreme indifference to human life. It is punishable by a sentence of ten to thirty years imprisonment with a fine up to $200,000.
  • Manslaughter is the second-degree indictable offense for causing the death of another during an attempt to elude the police. It is punishable by five to ten years imprisonment and a fine up to $150,000.

The New Jersey Criminal Code considers recklessly causing the death of another by vehicle or vessel a form of the second-degree indictable offense of criminal homicide.

If the operator of the vehicle was under the influence at the time, then it is considered a strict liability vehicular homicide. New Jersey law deems this a third-degree indictable crime, or a felony in other states, with penalties of three to five years imprisonment and a fine up to $15,000.

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New Mexico

In New Mexico, involuntary manslaughter is a fourth degree felony, punishable by up to eighteen months imprisonment and a fine up to $5,000. This offense covers the as the unlawful killing of another person without malice during the commission of:

  • An unlawful act that is not a felony
  • A lawful act done in an unlawful manner which may produce death

Homicide by vehicle through reckless driving is considered a third degree felony punishable up to six years imprisonment and a fine up to $5,000. If the death was the result of driving under the influence or evading the police, it is considered a second-degree felony punishable up to fifteen years imprisonment and a fine up to $12,500.

Under New Mexico law, prior criminal convictions may cause the penalties to increase as well.

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New York

The New York Penal Code has a number of crimes that covers offenses for unintentionally causing the death of another human:

  • Manslaughter in the second degree is a Class C felony for recklessly causing the death of another, punishable by a maximum fifteen years imprisonment.
  • Aggravated manslaughter in the second degree is a Class C felony for recklessly causing the death of a known on duty police officer.
  • Criminally negligent homicide is a Class E felony for causing the death of another through criminal negligence, punishable by a maximum of four years imprisonment.
  • Aggravated criminally negligent homicide is a Class C felony for causing the death of a known on duty police officer through criminal negligence.
  • Second degree vehicular homicide is a Class D felony for operating a vehicle, vessel, commercial vehicle, vehicle transporting a dangerous subject, or all-terrain vehicle while under the influence. It is punishable by a maximum of seven years imprisonment.
  • First degree vehicular homicide is a Class C felony for committing second degree vehicular homicide and either has a BAC of .18 or higher, has a suspended or revoked driver’s license, a previous conviction of driving under the influence or vehicular homicide, a child in the vehicle or kills a child, or causes the death of more than one person.
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide is a Class B felony for recklessly driving while committing a second-degree vehicular manslaughter and committing a provision specified in first degree vehicular manslaughter as well. It is punishable by a maximum of twenty-five years imprisonment.

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North Carolina

The North Carolina General Statutes classifies involuntary manslaughter as a Class F felony, which is punishable by ten to forty-one months imprisonment.

Death by vehicle in North Carolina may be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the crime.

  • Misdemeanor death by vehicle is a Class A1 misdemeanor for causing the death of another by committing a traffic violation or driving recklessly, punishable by 1 to 150 days of an active, intermediate, or community punishment.
  • A felony death by vehicle is a Class D felony for causing a death while driving under the influence, punishable by 38 to 160 months imprisonment.
  • Aggravated felony death by vehicle is a Class D felony for those previously convicted of driving under the influence, punishable by 38 to 160 months imprisonment.
  • A repeat felony death by vehicle is a Class B2 felony for those previously convicted of felony death by vehicle, punishable by 94 to 393 months imprisonment.

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North Dakota

In North Dakota, a person who recklessly causes the death of another is guilty of the Class B felony manslaughter. It comes with maximum penalties of up to ten years imprisonment and a fine of $20,000.

Deaths caused by reckless driving may be brought under this offense, but they may constitute negligent homicide or another charge under North Dakota law.

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Ohio

The Ohio Revised Code treats involuntary manslaughter as a felony offense, but the degree of the charge is dependent on the cause of death.

First degree involuntary manslaughter pertains to causing a death while committing or attempting to commit a felony. This offense is punishable by a definite prison term between three and eleven years and a fine up to $20,000.

Third degree involuntary manslaughter deals with causing the death while committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor or regulatory offense. This offense is punishable by a prison term from one to five years and a fine up to $10,000.

For either charge, there is an additional penalty of a year-long license suspension if the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ohio also may increase the penalties for those with a criminal history or repeat offenders of this crime.

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Oklahoma

Manslaughter in the second degree covers deaths caused by culpable negligence that do not fit the definition for murder or manslaughter in the first degree. It is a felony punishable by either two to four years in state prison or up to one year in county jail, with the possibility of a fine up to $1,000.

Oklahoma does not have a separate offense for vehicular manslaughter but it may be covered by second degree or even elevated to first degree manslaughter or second degree murder. The penalties for these charges depend on factors like any traffic violations, alcohol or drug use, previous convictions, or who the victim was.

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Oregon

The Oregon Revised Statutes do not have a specific involuntary manslaughter offense or unintentional homicide, but it does offer similar charges for causing the death of another through general manslaughter, reckless or negligent behavior.

Manslaughter in the second degree covers causing a death through reckless behavior or specific instances of criminal negligence. Criminally negligent homicide applies to deaths caused by criminal negligence. Both offenses are Class B felonies punishable by ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

However, deaths caused by motor vehicles is not covered under manslaughter, but instead is treated as aggravated vehicular homicide. This is a Class A felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a fine up to $375,000. However, these penalties may be increased for any previous convictions.

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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania defines involuntary manslaughter as causing the death of another person as the direct result of an unlawful or lawful act carried out in a reckless or grossly negligent manner. It is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $10,000.

Deaths caused by reckless or grossly negligent driving fall under homicide by vehicle. Generally, it is considered a third degree felony punishable by seven years imprisonment with a fine between $2,500 to $15,000.

There is a separate offense for homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence. Typically, it is treated as a second degree felony punishable by not more than ten years imprisonment with up to $25,000 in fines. However, previous criminal history can elevate this to a first-degree felony with a prison sentence up to twenty years.

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Rhode Island

The Rhode Island General Laws provides that manslaughter is a felony punishable by a maximum of thirty years imprisonment. While involuntary manslaughter is not explicitly defined by statute, it is supported by common law, or precedent set in court cases.

There are two separate offenses for unintentional deaths caused by operation of a motor vehicle. Driving so as to endanger, resulting in death covers reckless driving that causes death and may result in ten years imprisonment along with a license suspension up to five years.

Driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, resulting in death may lead to imprisonment from five to fifteen years with a fine of $5,000 to $10,000 and a five-year license revocation. Any second or subsequent convictions of this offense leads to heightened penalties.

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South Carolina

Involuntary manslaughter in South Carolina requires a finding that criminal negligence causing the death of another human being. It may be penalized up to five years imprisonment.

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South Dakota

South Dakota deems any reckless killing of a human or unborn child not covered by murder or manslaughter in the first degree as manslaughter in the second degree. It is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to ten years in state prison and a fine up to $20,000.

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Tennessee

The Tennessee Code does not have a specific involuntary manslaughter offense, but it does have charges for reckless homicide and criminally negligent homicide instead. Reckless homicide is a Class D felony punishable by two to twelve years imprisonment and a fine up to $5,000. Criminally negligent homicide is a Class E felony punishable by one to six years imprisonment with a fine up to $3,000.

vehicular homicide covers deaths caused by operating a motor vehicle, boat, or other vessel.

  • Killing a worker in a construction zone is a Class D felony punishable by two to twelve years imprisonment with a fine up to $5,000.
  • Deaths caused by reckless driving or drag racing are Class C felonies punishable by three to fifteen years imprisonment and a fine up to $10,000.
  • If the driver was under the influence, it is a Class B felony punishable by eight to thirty years imprisonment and a fine up to $25,000.

However, it may be a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide if the defendant has a BAC over .20 or prior related convictions. This is a Class A felony punishable by fifteen to sixty years imprisonment and a fine up to $50,000.

Additionally, those convicted of a vehicular homicide charge are penalized with the loss of driving privileges for three to ten years.

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Texas

The Texas Penal Code provides that recklessly causing the death of another person constitutes manslaughter or intoxication manslaughter. Typically, both of these charges are considered second degree felonies punishable by two to twenty years imprisonment with a fine up to $10,000.

If the victim is a firefighter or emergency services personnel member, then intoxication manslaughter may be brought as a first-degree felony punishable by five to ninety-nine years imprisonment with a fine up to $10,000. This also applies to previous related convictions.

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Utah

The Utah Criminal Code does not prescribe an offense specifically for involuntary manslaughter, but a few of the offenses given cover similar reckless, unintentional, or reckless killings.

Recklessly causing the death of another is included in the definition of manslaughter. It is a second-degree felony punishable by one to 15 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. If the death is caused by a motor vehicle, then it also results in the revocation of driving privileges.

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Vermont

The Vermont Statutes use the general definition of manslaughter along with common law and traffic rules for involuntary manslaughter as well as vehicular manslaughter. This offense is penalized by one to 15 years of imprisonment with up to $3,000 in fines.

If the cause of death was due to operating a vehicle under the influence, other charges and penalties may apply depending on the circumstances.

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Virginia

The Code of Virginia provides that a person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter as the result of unintentionally causing the death of another person by driving under the influence. It is a Class 5 felony punishable by a one to ten years term of imprisonment or twelve months in jail and a fine up to $2,500.

However, it is elevated to aggravated involuntary manslaughter punishable by one to twenty years imprisonment and license revocation if the conduct shows a gross, wanton and culpable reckless disregard for life.

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Washington

The law in Washington provides two degrees of manslaughter in general and does not specifically define involuntary manslaughter.

First degree manslaughter is a Class A felony for recklessly causing the death of another person and may have a sentence up to life imprisonment and $50,000 of fines.

Second degree manslaughter is a Class B felony for causing the death of another person through criminal negligence and has a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment and $20,000 in fines.

Vehicular homicide is also a Class A felony but the penalties increase for previous related convictions.

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West Virginia

The West Virginia Code treats involuntary manslaughter as a misdemeanor punishable up to one year in jail with a fine up to $1,000.

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Wisconsin

While the Wisconsin Statutes do list involuntary manslaughter as an offense by name, there are other crimes that penalize a person who unintentionally, negligently, or recklessly causes the death of another.

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Wyoming

The Wyoming Statutes define involuntary manslaughter as the reckless, unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is a felony punishable by up to twenty years imprisonment.

Homicide by vehicle covers causing the death of another person by operating a vehicle in a criminally negligent manner. It is punishable by up to one year in county jail and up to $2,000 in fines.

Aggravated homicide by vehicle constitutes a felony punishable by up to twenty years imprisonment. This is reserved for reckless driving, distracted driving such as talking on the phone, or driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Additional penalties may apply for repeat offenders or those with extensive criminal histories.

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