A person can be charged with involuntary manslaughter for a host of reasons. Unlike a voluntary manslaughter charge, which requires that someone intended to kill another person, even if it was in the heat of passion, no such intent to harm or kill is required with involuntary manslaughter.
The state does have to show that a person was guilty of “culpable negligence.” In Florida, that means reckless or wanton behavior that shows a disregard for human life.
An involuntary manslaughter charge can be leveled even if a person was acting in self-defense or while defending someone else, if it’s determined that he or she used excessive force in doing so. Another example of involuntary manslaughter is when a weapon such as a gun or knife or another instrument, such as a car, is used recklessly and results in someone’s death.
An involuntary manslaughter charge can be upgraded to aggravated manslaughter if the victim was an elderly person or a child. That is considered a first-degree felony, which can carry a sentence of 30 years behind bars.
A conviction for involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, can result in as much as 15 years in prison, another 15 years of probation and $10,000 in fines. Those maximum penalties may be increased if a defendant has a history of criminal offenses.
There are a number of ways to defend a person charged with involuntary manslaughter, depending on the situation. A defendant and his or her attorney can work to show that the act did not involve recklessness but was a terrible accident. A defendant may also assert that use of deadly force was necessary to protect a person or property.
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law gained worldwide notoriety after the 2012 death of teenager Trayvon Martin. The defendant, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of the charge after he used that defense. Just this month, however, a Florida judge ruled the law unconstitutional because it originated with the Florida Supreme Court rather than the state legislature. The judge determined that this violated the constitutional separation of powers.
Even if a defendant had no intention to harm, let alone kill, another person, taking someone’s life can still place him or her in significant legal jeopardy. It’s essential to seek guidance from an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney.