The Florida Bar - Board Certified Badge
Martindale-Hubbell - AV Preeminent Badge
Super Lawyers - Michael B Cohen Badge

Manslaughter Charges

The above media file can be found on all pages regarding homicide and related topics

Involuntary Manslaughter is when the resulting death of a victim occurred with no actual intent by the person who is responsible for the fatality. Involuntary Manslaughter can also be defined as criminally negligent homicide when charged as a crime.

An example of this could be: a person driving a car that hits and kills another due to that person running in front of his car without warning. This type of case will probably not be charged as a crime if it can be proven by the evidence and eyewitness accounts that those facts bear out. However, in the case of a person breaking up a fight, where someone falls and is killed in the process, they may or may not be charged with Involuntary Manslaughter depending on the determination of what level of "excessive force" was used if any.

Another instance of Involuntary Manslaughter would be a criminal act that demonstrated culpably negligent behavior. To state the difference, this would be when a person fails to perform with the forethought that an average rational person would apply under the same or similar situation, or acting recklessly while disregarding common caution which would place another person in jeopardy of either bodily harm or death. If a trial takes place, a prosecutor may try to prove that a defendant did not demonstrate that they acted in a reasonable manner during interaction with a victim, disregarding conscious intent of harming the victim, hoping to sway a jury to weigh the act as culpable negligence.

Constructive Manslaughter a/k/a Unlawful Act Manslaughter

A charge of Constructive Manslaughter can be alleged when a killing has taken place during the undertaking of an unlawful dangerous act but it is clear that there is an absence of what is known as "mens rea" in the mind of the person responsible for the death.

The term "mens rea" comes from the Latin translating to "guilty mind". In criminal law, it is regarded as one of the necessary basics of bringing charges in many crimes and is weighed as the greatest test of criminal liability.

Gross Negligence Manslaughter

A charge of Gross Negligence manslaughter can be alleged when a person responsible for the death of another acted with less than expected standard care through extreme carelessness and/or incompetence. An example of this would be leaving a loaded gun in a home where children are present and not taking proper measures to make sure the weapon is unavailable to them.

Vehicular Manslaughter

As explained above, in the event of a car accident when a death occurred, as long as the person driving the vehicle was doing so in a careful responsible manner the chances of being charged with a crime are very slim. However, there are factors when the death of an individual by a driver of a vehicle can be charged with a criminal act. It is important to remember that in addition to a death concerning a passenger of another vehicle, the charge could be brought forward if a passenger of the vehicle responsible for the collision or even a pedestrian is killed in an accident that meets the criteria described below.

A driver who can be proven to have been driving recklessly, causing the death of an adult male or female and in the case of a pregnant woman carrying a viable fetus will most likely be charged with Vehicular Manslaughter. If the mother lives, but the fetus does not, the charge will stand. In these cases, the prosecution is not required to prove intent. A fetus is considered viable when it can be shown that it has developed the capability to sustain meaningful life outside the womb through ordinary medical procedures.

Vehicular Manslaughter can be charged as either a first or second degree felony. Both of these felonies, if a conviction is acquired can yield a fine up to ten-thousand dollars in monetary penalty. But in terms of years of incarceration, a conviction for or second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison while conviction for first-degree manslaughter, also known as Vehicular Homicide can yield a more severe sentence of up to thirty years of incarceration. Among the major reasons for the difference in prison time can be due to many factors such as withholding the occurrence of the accident from law enforcement, leaving the scene of the accident, not attempting to give reasonable aid to any injured parties, being found to have been under the influence of drugs or being over the legal limit regarding to alcohol (.08) when the accident transpired.

Another consideration regarding Vehicular Manslaughter is the use of a cell phone for texting, sending an email or accessing the Internet while driving a motor vehicle, resulting in an accident that causes a death. Although using a cell phone for participating in these activities while operating a motor vehicle has been illegal in Florida since October, 2013, legislation is pending that if passed, may cause the offender to possibly face a Vehicular Manslaughter charge for those actions if they cause a death.

In any of the scenarios listed above a conviction can be a life-altering event and the assistance of a qualified, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, as myself, who practices in the tri-county area of Dade, Broward and Pam Beach Counties is vital when any charges are brought forward for any of these charges.

To read more about the separate charge of Driving under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI) click here.

It should also be noted that an arrest for reckless driving even in the case where there is no accident that causes injury or death is solely at the discretion of a police officer that may notice what he believes to be a person driving erratically. In this situation a first time conviction can result in a ninety day sentence in jail as well as a fine not to exceed five-hundred dollars. A repeat offender could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to one thousand dollars.

My success as an experienced criminal defense attorney can be attributed to my thirty-five plus year career of trying these types of cases for both the prosecution and now as a defense attorney giving me a clear advantage over other defense lawyers that are considered expert in this field. In cases such as these I am always up-to-date on the state sentencing guidelines giving me the ability to get the best results for my clients depending on each individual circumstance.

There are a variety of defenses for a charge of Involuntary or Vehicular Manslaughter that are available to me that can be crafted to fit each individual case. Remember, it is always the burden of the prosecution to prove any criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps the absence of sufficient evidence will be a factor, or in the case of an Involuntary Manslaughter charge, the death occurred as a measure of self-defense.

In the case of Vehicular Manslaughter it's always possible that a law enforcement officer's Breathalyzer device had not been calibrated in a timely manner or could be proven to have been malfunctioning at the time of an arrest, making that evidence corrupt. Or possibly there is contrasting witness testimony to the facts of what actually happened at the scene of an accident and before the accident that resulted when the fatality occurred. In both cases there's always the possibility that a person has be wrongly accused and the evidence or lack thereof can demonstrate these opportunities to assist in shaping a strong defense leading to a positive final determination.

It should also be noted that accepting a plea of manslaughter may be a best case scenario in a situation where the prosecution has charged a suspect with a greater crime which can result with a more punitive outcome. There have been many cases throughout my career where I was able to get charges reduced on my client's behalf.