Criminal Defence Against Involuntary Manslaughter Charges

If you did not intend to cause serious injury or death but are suspected of committing an act which resulted in the death of a person you will be charged with involuntary manslaughter. This is a serious crime which has severe penalties attached for those found guilty.

If you have been accused on committing involuntary manslaughter, contact our team of specialist manslaughter solicitors today.

What is involuntary manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter is defined as an individual who has committed an unlawful killing without an intention to cause grievous bodily harm or kill the victim, causing the death by recklessness or gross negligence instead.

In this case, recklessness is defined as committing an unlawful or dangerous act whilst showing disregard to the potential consequences.

Unlawful act manslaughter

An individual will be found guilty of committing involuntary manslaughter as a result of an unlawful or dangerous act should it be proven they intentionally committed the act and the act directly contributed to the death of another individual.

When looking to establish this, the prosecution will take several facts into account:

The dangerousness of the act

Initially, the court will look to establish if the act being committed by the accused was dangerous. When looking at this, the court does not look at whether the person committing the act recognised the danger, but if all sober, reasonable people would recognise the danger. The jury must establish if the act exposed the victim to “some” harm.

The act also does not need to be directed at an individual. For example, a person committing arson which causes an individual to die may be judged to have committed a dangerous act leading to involuntary manslaughter.

Causation

The prosecution must then establish the dangerous act caused the death without an intervening act breaking the chain of causation.

Proof of the elements of the unlawful act

Finally, it must be proven the unlawful act took actively place with the knowledge of wrongdoing.

Should all these facts be established as true, you may be found guilty of committing involuntary manslaughter via an unlawful or dangerous act.

Involuntary manslaughter by gross negligence

If a person owes a duty of care to another individual and is negligent to a severe enough degree to cause the death of the victim, they may be liable for involuntary manslaughter by gross negligence.

When prosecuting for this, the courts will look for the following elements:

  • The defendant owed the victim a duty of care
  • The defendant breached this duty of care
  • The breach was responsible for the death of the victim
  • The negligence was gross, showing a significant disregard for the life and safety of others.

Should these elements be established as true, the defendant may be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. In cases where a company is in breach of its duty of care, they may face a charge of corporate manslaughter.

Death from drug use

If an individual sells drugs to another, who then goes on to take them and die as a result, the person selling the drugs will not be held responsible for the death of the buyer.

This holds as true even if the seller helps the victim take the drugs by performing preparatory measures such as applying a tourniquet or preparing a syringe.

In the view of the courts, if the individual taking the drugs was an informed adult of sound mind and able to make their own decisions, they executed their own free will by administering the drugs despite knowing the risks.

Involuntary manslaughter sentencing

Sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter depend on the culpability of the individual committing the crime. Although all sentences are significant, maximum punishments do differ.

An individual found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence faces a custodial sentence of up to 12 years. On the other hand, those found guilty of manslaughter by unlawful or dangerous act face a custodial sentence of up to 18 years.

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