The legal term for the killing of another person is “homicide;” However, not every homicide leads to the same criminal charges against the defendant.
Manslaughter is a legal term which refers to the killing of another individual without malice, forethought, reckless abandon for life, or implied intent. In many situations, this type of killing is accidental, though it is caused by the defendant’s recklessness and disregard for human life.
Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional homicide of criminally negligent or reckless conduct. It can also refer to an unintentional killing through the commission of a crime other than a felony.
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.
In order to determine whether an action demonstrates a reckless disregard for human life, the court will ask whether a reasonable person should know that lives would be endangered due to the conduct. Common examples include drunk driving, driving at high speeds through an area known to have many pedestrians, or storing dangerous materials such as weapons and explosives.
The level of negligence required for involuntary manslaughter is higher than typical civil negligence and requires that the defendant has acted in a very unreasonable manner, also known as “criminal negligence.” Involuntary manslaughter is a completely different crime from voluntary manslaughter, which refers to homicides committed without malice aforethought and “in the heat of passion.”
The fact that the unintentional killing of a human being occurred in the commission of an unlawful act makes it a crime. 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.