Being charged with involuntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania is an overwhelming experience for most people. If you are facing this type of charge, you will likely be worried about your future and your potential for a conviction. You should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible.
Working with a skilled defense lawyer can help you to secure a better outcome in your case. We represent people who have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other homicide offenses throughout the Commonwealth.
What Is Involuntary Manslaughter In Chester County, PA?
In Pennsylvania, involuntary manslaughter is defined in 18 Pa. C.S. 2504. Under this statute, involuntary manslaughter can be charged when a person is killed because of criminal negligence or recklessness but without intent. For example, if you were driving 30 miles per hour over the speed limit and caused an accident in which someone died, you might not have intended to cause his or her death. However, you could be charged with involuntary manslaughter because of the recklessness of your actions.
Involuntary manslaughter can also be charged when you engage in negligent or reckless conduct that is legal. If your recklessness causes the death of another, involuntary manslaughter charges can be filed against you even if your actions were not unlawful.
What Are The Elements Of Involuntary Manslaughter?
For a prosecutor to win a conviction for involuntary manslaughter, he or she must prove all of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor cannot meet the burden of proof for one of the elements, the defendant cannot be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
A prosecutor must prove all of the following elements of involuntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction:
- The victim’s death directly resulted from the defendant’s actions.
- The defendant’s actions must have been committed with a reckless disregard for life or must have been inherently dangerous.
- The defendant was aware that his or her actions could potentially result in the death of someone else.
How Is Involuntary Manslaughter Different From Murder In Chester County, PA?
The main way that involuntary and voluntary manslaughter differs from murder is the defendant’s intent. When someone faces a manslaughter charge, the killing of the victim was unintentional. By contrast, a murder charge requires the defendant to have acted intentionally.
In some cases, a person can be charged with second-degree murder if he or she kills someone while committing a violent felony without an intent to kill. In this type of situation, the defendant might not have intended to kill someone else but did so when he or she was committing a violent felony such as armed robbery, kidnapping, or burglary.
People who are charged with involuntary manslaughter act without criminal intent. For example, you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if you drink at a bar and then kill someone in a drunk-driving accident. Some people can be charged with involuntary manslaughter even when their reckless or negligent actions were not illegal. For example, if you are a landlord and failed to keep the heating unit in an apartment in good working order, you might be charged with involuntary manslaughter if a fire breaks out and causes the deaths of some of the tenants.
Penalties For An Involuntary Manslaughter Conviction In Chester County, Pennsylvania
Involuntary manslaughter is much less serious than a murder charge. However, it still carries the potential for incarceration and other serious penalties if you are convicted of the offense. In most cases of involuntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania, people face first-degree misdemeanor charges. A conviction for first-degree misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and a sentence of up to five years of prison.
If the victim is younger than age 12 and was in your custody or care at the time of his or her death, involuntary manslaughter is a second-degree felony. If you are convicted of this offense, you can face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
While Pennsylvania has a general definition for involuntary manslaughter, the Commonwealth also defines specific offenses that are associated with driving a vehicle.
These types of offenses are called homicide by vehicle. This can be charged when you operate a vehicle in a grossly negligent way that violates a traffic law or ordinance. For example, intoxication or speeding that causes the death of someone else could lead to homicide by vehicle charges.
To prove that your actions were grossly negligent or reckless, the prosecutor will compare your conduct with the standard of care that a reasonable person would have followed under the same circumstances. A prosecutor might also explore whether you ignored a recognizable danger and continued your activity despite the significant risks involved.
What Are The Defenses To Involuntary Manslaughter?
Your attorney will carefully review the evidence in your case to identify the defenses that should be raised. One common defense that might be raised in an involuntary manslaughter case is that your actions did not cause the other person’s death. For example, if you were speeding, but the victim ran across the road suddenly at a mid-block location instead of at a crosswalk, this type of defense might be available to you.
Another defense that might be raised to a charge of involuntary manslaughter is that the victim’s death was accidental. In this type of situation, your actions must have been lawful and not criminally negligent.
Get help from DiCindio Law
While an involuntary manslaughter charge is a less-serious homicide offense, you should still take it seriously. If you are convicted of involuntary manslaughter, you could face several years in prison and substantial fines. Getting help from the experienced defense team at DiCindio Law might help you to successfully defend against your charges. Contact us today for a consultation by calling us at (610) 430-3535.