Pennsylvania Involuntary Manslaughter Laws
Involuntary manslaughter, unlike other homicide charges set by Pennsylvania law, does not require an intent to kill. Rather than rely on the defendant’s intent, the charge of involuntary manslaughter penalizes unintentional killings. By pursuing involuntary manslaughter, the state seeks to prevent and punish activities that happen with disregard for human life.
To prove involuntary manslaughter, a prosecutor must show that the defendant caused the victim’s death by reckless or grossly negligent conduct while engaging a lawful or unlawful activity. A lawful act such as driving a car may be the basis for involuntary manslaughter if the defendant drove recklessly. The prosecutor must show a causal link between the defendant’s reckless or negligent conduct and the victim’s death. If the chain of events leading to the homicide does not trace back directly or substantially to the defendant, the state may have difficult time with proving involuntary manslaughter.
A prosecutor can establish gross negligence or recklessness by comparing the defendant’s actions with an established standard of care that a reasonable person would follow. The prosecutor might also look at whether the defendant purposefully ignored a known danger or continued an activity even when significant risks became obvious.
Involuntary manslaughter is a first degree misdemeanor under the laws of Pennsylvania. The potential punishment for a first degree misdemeanor is a term of imprisonment for up to five years.
If the defendant committed involuntary manslaughter as the parent, caregiver, or custodian of a child under the age of 12, state law increases the criminal charge to a second degree felony. If convicted.