Involuntary manslaughter — simply put, an unintentional killing — qualifies as a first-degree misdemeanor offense that falls under the criminal homicide umbrella. Involuntary manslaughter is unique in that it lacks the “intent” requirement that defines many of the other criminal homicide offenses. As such, it operates under quite different principles, with issues relating to negligence and the standard of care.
For example, drunk drivers who get involved in an accident and cause the death of another person can be charged with involuntary manslaughter, as the act of driving in a voluntarily intoxicated state is arguably reckless or grossly negligent.
Though involuntary manslaughter is — in most cases — a misdemeanor offense, it carries with it significant penalties. If you have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, it’s therefore critical that you consult a qualified Pittsburgh involuntary manslaughter defense lawyer for assistance in developing the best possible defense strategy.
Basics of an Involuntary Manslaughter Charge
In the state of Pennsylvania, involuntary manslaughter is defined in section 2504 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. According to the statute, a person will be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter when:
- as a direct result of reckless or grossly negligent conduct,
- the defendant causes the death of another person.
Involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor offense with penalties of up to five years imprisonment. It should be noted, however, that the severity of the offense will be upgraded to a second-degree felony (with penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment) if the charge involves the death of a child under the age of 12 who was in the care, custody, or control of the person who caused the death.
Understanding Gross Negligence and Recklessness Under Pennsylvania Law
In Pennsylvania, gross negligence and recklessness are one-and-the-same — in essence, the two terms describe “criminal negligence,” which is a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of conduct, over and above what might be considered the standard form of negligence (i.e., violation of the applicable standard of care to a given situation).
In their attempts to further delineate what constitutes criminal negligence in the involuntary manslaughter context, Pennsylvania courts have concluded that the line between negligence and criminal negligence is crossed when the defendant knows or should know that death is a probable consequence of their conduct, but consciously disregards the risk.
For example, drunk driving (when the defendant has voluntarily consumed alcohol) qualifies as reckless or criminally negligent conduct because driving while intoxicated is an act in which death is a probable consequence, and yet, the defendant has chosen to drive in conscious disregard of that risk.
Contact a Skilled Pittsburgh Involuntary Manslaughter Defense Lawyer for Help
Here at McKinney Law, our attorneys have extensive experience assisting those who have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other criminal homicide offenses in Pennsylvania.
We are dedicated to providing our clients with comprehensive and aggressive advocacy. Unlike many other criminal defense firms, we are willing and able to take a case to trial and face prosecutors in litigation. This approach gives us a substantial advantage when it comes to early negotiations — because prosecutors understand that we are capable of obtaining a favorable resolution at trial, we can exercise additional leverage when negotiating plea deals.
Call (412) 520-3301 or submit a message through our website to be connected with an experienced Pittsburgh involuntary manslaughter defense lawyer for a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation. Running into scheduling issues? Here at McKinney Law, we offer prospective clients the opportunity to arrange after-hours consultations if necessary.