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Negligent Homicide Definition
3 Types of Defence, Examples & Penalties

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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Negligent homicide is a grave legal offense that can lead to imprisonment. Although it is not as severe as murder or manslaughter, it can still have significant repercussions that affect your freedom. 

Having worked extensively on negligent homicide cases as a criminal defense attorney, I thoroughly comprehend the legal intricacies of such claims.

In this article, I will provide essential information on negligent homicide and offer guidance on navigating the legal process.

Quick Summary

  • Negligent homicide means that a person acted with criminal negligence, and their behavior caused the death of another person. 
  • Criminal negligence is not the same as a person acting careless, inattentive, or making a simple misjudgment.
  • When someone's actions greatly differ from what a reasonable person would do in a given situation, it is considered criminal negligence.

What Is Negligent Homicide?

A close up shot of a man in handcuffs

Negligent homicide is a form of criminal homicide with or without intent based on negligence. Generally, it occurs when someone causes another's death through careless disregard for their safety and well-being [1].

Committing negligent homicide involves the following actions:

  • Commits an act in a reckless way that leads to a high risk of death or great bodily injury to another human being
  • Commits some act of criminal negligence

If an individual behaves in a way that a reasonable person would know creates such a risk, it could be considered criminal negligence. This means the behavior differs greatly from what a reasonable would do in the same situation.

A person acts with criminal negligence when his or her behavior ignores a clear danger or the safety of others. However, the exact definition of this term can vary depending on the criminal laws of each state.

For example, according to Arizona law, "criminal negligence" occurs when someone does not realize the substantial and unjustifiable risk that their actions could lead to someone's death. A reasonable person would know that acting that way would create such a risk.

Related Articles: Negligent Homicide Sentence

Examples Of Negligent Homicide

A man texting while driving his motorcycle

Some common criminal negligence examples include:

  • Driving a motor vehicle in a crowded neighborhood while texting at top speeds.
  • Shooting a lethal firearm into the air amidst a packed celebration.
  • Leaving a child in a car without supervision during hot weather.

Based on previous cases I have worked in, I discovered that many states consider negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter the same type of criminal offense [2]. 

"There are some critical pieces in the language of the law to highlight and explain more. First, involuntary manslaughter charges in negligent homicide cases only apply when another law is broken. Simple accidents do not qualify."
- Robert Helfend, Criminal Defense Attorney at Robert M. Helfend, Attorney at Law

What Is The Difference Between Negligent Homicide And Manslaughter?

A close up shot of a man wearing handcuffsThe difference between negligent homicide and manslaughter is in the level of intent involved in the killing. 

Negligent homicide, also known as involuntary manslaughter, occurs when a person leads to another person's death through their own negligence or recklessness without intending to kill. 

On the other hand, voluntary manslaughter involves killing another person with some level of intent but without the premeditation or malice required for a murder charge.

Related Article: Self-Defense Murder Explained

Common Defenses In Negligent Homicide Cases

Law book and gavel on a white background

Common defenses may involve demonstrating that:

  1. You acted in self-defense
  2. The "victim" was accidentally killed
  3. The available evidence is not enough to support a guilty verdict

Additionally, accidents can be used as a defense if you:

  • Did not have the intent to commit a crime or cause harm.
  • You were not behaving negligently in an unlawful manner at the time of the accidental killing.
  • You were engaged in lawful activity at the time of the accident.

You should seek advice from an experienced defense attorney if you are facing negligent homicide charges.

A defense lawyer can assist you in developing the strongest defense strategy.

Penalties For Negligent Homicide

A man who is in jail because of negligent homicideBeing aware of the consequences and how severe they can be is crucial if you are convicted of criminal negligence. 

In cases where a weapon or dangerous instrument was not involved in the negligent homicide, the offense is considered a non-dangerous Class 4 felony. If found guilty, the punishment for a first offense may include probation or imprisonment for a period between 1 to 3.75 years. 

For a repeat offense, the punishment can include probation or imprisonment for 2.25 to 7.5 years.

If someone causes death due to negligence and they were using a deadly weapon or dangerous tool, it is considered a more serious crime called a dangerous Class 4 felony.

The punishment is harsher, with a minimum prison sentence of 4 years and a maximum of 8 years. Typically, the expected prison term is 6 years for this conviction.

If you are facing a criminal charge of criminal negligence, you must ask for help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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Is Negligent Homicide The Same Crime As Vehicular Homicide?

No, negligent homicide is not the same crime as vehicular homicide. Vehicular homicide is when someone operates a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner that causes someone else to die, and it's considered a criminal offense due to criminal negligence with criminal liability.

Is Criminal Negligent Homicide A Misdemeanor?

No, criminally negligent homicide is not a misdemeanor, and it is typically classified as a felony offense.

However, the severity of the criminally negligent homicide charge and corresponding penalties may vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances of the case.

What Is The Most Common Cause Of Negligent Homicide?

The most common cause of negligent homicide is reckless driving, medical malpractice, failure to provide adequate care, and workplace accidents.

What Is Another Word For Negligent Homicide?

Another word for negligent homicide is involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, depending on the jurisdiction and specific legal definitions.

Consult A Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with negligent homicide, it is crucial to seek the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer. They can safeguard your rights and defend your case.

At Schmidt & Clark, LLP our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience handling negligent homicide cases.

They can provide the guidance and representation you need to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.