If a prosecutor believes that you recklessly caused the accidental death of another person, they may charge you with involuntary manslaughter. They are then required to show that you acted with criminal recklessness beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you. In cases of involuntary manslaughter, the state of Illinois defines recklessness as consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that your actions will cause great bodily harm or death.
If your actions did not rise to the level of recklessness and instead were merely negligent, you should not be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and may instead only face a civil suit.
Fortunately, an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney knows how to show evidence that you were simply acting negligently and not recklessly. These are complicated legal issues, so it is in your best interests to have a lawyer representing you in court and handling your case.
Details Regarding Manslaughter
The specific elements of involuntary manslaughter are the following:
- A person died as a result of your actions;
- Your actions were inherently dangerous or carried out with disregard for human life; and
- You knew or should have known that your actions could result in death.
You also must have acted without lawful justification. Therefore, if you were acting in self-defense or due to an emergency, you can use that as a defense for your charges.
Involuntary manslaughter is a Class 3 felony, which means potential penalties include two to five years in an Illinois state prison. Though probation is technically available, courts are often reluctant to award probation in lieu of prison time when someone has lost their life. An attorney knows how to negotiate with prosecutors in order to get penalties and charges reduced.
Under certain circumstances, recklessly causing someone’s death is charged as “reckless homicide” instead of involuntary manslaughter. Specifically, you may face reckless homicide charges if you unintentionally kill someone while doing any of the following:
- Driving a motor vehicle;
- Operating a snowmobile;
- Operating a watercraft;
- Driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV); or
- Causing a vehicle to become airborne by using an incline.
Reckless homicide is also charged as a Class 3 felony with potential prison time of two to five years.
Under some circumstances, however, both involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide may be charged up to a Class 2 felony, which means potentially three to seven years in state prison. The aggravating circumstances often have to do with the identity of a victim, the location of the offense, or whether you violated any other laws at the time of the offense. For instance, you may face Class 2 felony charges if the victim was a peace officer who was on duty, or if the reckless homicide took place while you were speeding through a school zone or construction zone.
Because a person lost their life, courts and prosecutors take reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter very seriously. If you have been arrested for or charged with either of these offenses, your first step should always be to contact experienced Chicago defense lawyer Steven Goldman at Goldman & Associates for help.