The legal term for killing another person is “homicide”; however, not every homicide leads to the same criminal charges against the defendant.
Manslaughter is a legal term that refers to the killing of another individual without forethought or premeditation. In Nevada, manslaughter is broken into two categories: voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter refers to killing another person in the "heat of passion." This crime refers to killing someone as a result of a sudden, violent impulse in response to being intensely provoked.
Involuntary manslaughter refers to killing another person unintentionally due to criminally negligent conduct or through the commission of a crime. In many situations, this type of killing is accidental, but caused by the defendant’s recklessness and/or disregard for human life.
In general, the three elements required for conviction of involuntary manslaughter include the following:
- An individual is killed due to the actions of the defendant.
- The defendant’s actions were criminally negligent or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or a low-level felony.
- The defendant knew or should have known that their actions were putting the lives of others at risk.
The level of negligence required for involuntary manslaughter is higher than typical civil negligence and requires that the defendant acted in a highly unreasonable manner, also known as “criminal negligence.”
Criminal negligence refers to grossly negligent behavior that demonstrates a reckless disregard for human life. In order to determine whether an action demonstrates this reckless disregard, the court will ask whether a reasonable person should know that lives would be endangered due to the conduct.
Common examples of criminal negligence include drunk driving, driving at high speeds through an area known to have many pedestrians, or storing dangerous materials such as weapons and explosives.
Because involuntary manslaughter is defined as killing another person through an unlawful act, it is charged as a crime. By definition, involuntary manslaughter involves either criminal negligence or the commission of an actual crime, which means the defendant will be charged with a crime even if he or she did not intend to kill another person.
In Nevada, involuntary manslaughter is a category D felony that is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of four years and a fine of up to $5,000.