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Manslaughter 1

Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter

CJ230-07: Criminal Law

Unit 5 Midterm Essays

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Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing. In some states it is
referred to as misdemeanor manslaughter since it is a misdemeanor charge. It is
defined as death that occurs from the commission of an unlawful act or culpable
negligence. There is absolutely no intent to kill in involuntary manslaughter.
For a person to be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, the state has to
prove three things. First, they have to prove that someone was killed by the
actions of the defendant. Second, they must prove that the defendant’s act was
dangerous to human life by nature, or done with reckless disregard for human life.
Third, they must prove that the defendant knew his actions were a threat to the
lives of others, or that he knew of circumstances that would have caused him to
foresee that threat.
The first element of involuntary manslaughter is that the death must result
from an unlawful act that is malum in se. Involuntary manslaughter would not apply
in a case where the unlawful act was malum prohibitum. In most states, it only
applies to deaths resulting from misdemeanor cases since felony murder is usually
charged for death during the commission of a felony. For example, a 13-year-old
boy pled to involuntary manslaughter in Lithonia, Georgia to avoid being tried as
an adult for murder. The boy allegedly killed his baby sister by swinging her head
into the bedpost. It was reported as an accident, and the boy tried to save his
sister. He said that she was crying, so he was spinning her around to try to make
her smile. He said he had done it many times before without incident. Apparently,
the police and prosecutor saw the boy’s actions as an assault rather than a game,
so the death occurred during a misdemeanor assault. He was charged with murder,
but since murder is one of seven deadly sins that guarantee a transfer to an adult
prison at age 18, they offered him the plea. To me, the charge of involuntary
manslaughter seems appropriate for the act. He will be released when he is 18
years old.

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Elements of Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter can occur through culpable negligence. However, the
extent of negligence must be so severe that the jury will see it as criminal in
nature. Also, there must be a proximate causal connection between the unlawful act
and the homicide. For example, a 43-year-old woman in Georgia had a party for her
high school daughter. The woman supplied kegs of beer for her daughter and her
friends at this party. A 16-year-old boy got intoxicated at this party, and was
allowed to get into his car and drive home. Unfortunately, he never made it home.
He was killed in a fatal accident. The 43-year-old woman and her adult friends
that participated were all charged with involuntary manslaughter. They had no
intentions of hurting anyone, but she and her friends unlawfully bought and served
alcohol to minors. Therefore, the teen’s death resulted from the adults’ unlawful
act. Also, if the boy had not been given alcohol at this party, he would not have
had this fatal accident that was caused by his level of intoxication. This
connects the unlawful act and the homicide.
Those are all the elements of involuntary manslaughter. States do vary on some
things, though. For example, GA Unannotated Code 16-5-3 considers whether the
defendant was in the commission of a lawful act done in an unlawful manner, or in
the commission of an unlawful act from the beginning when an unintentional death
occurred. The answers to these questions determine whether or not a defendant will
be charged with involuntary manslaughter or something else. A few jurisdictions
have even added fourth-degree manslaughter to their books. In this case,
convictions can be given when a death results from ordinary negligence. Many
states are in disagreement on several factors, but these guidelines are the basic
ones that are needed for the charge of involuntary manslaughter.

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Chamelin. N. (2003). Criminal Law for Police Officers
Boston, MA: Pearson Custom Publishing Georgia Unannotated Code