Accidents happen. When accidents turn deadly, they’re often the result of ordinary mistakes or negligence. As such, there are no criminal charges involved, although the victim’s survivors are permitted to take action in civil court through lawsuits.
When someone’s unjustifiable death was caused by another party’s pure recklessness, however, Illinois law calls that “involuntary manslaughter,” and that’s a felony.
How do the police draw the line between negligence and recklessness?
Generally, if you accidentally kill someone, the prosecutor will ask the following questions when determining whether you should be charged with involuntary manslaughter:
- Were your actions inherently dangerous or did you exhibit a blatant disregard for human life when you acted?
- Did you know — or should you have known — that what you were doing could kill someone?
Some situations that could easily lead to involuntary manslaughter charges include:
- Allowing a very young child to play unsupervised outside, where they eventually wander into traffic and are struck by a car
- Shooting a firearm into the air in celebration, where a bullet kills someone you didn’t even know
- Shoving someone while they’re waiting on the “L,” causing them to fall off the platform and strike their head
Your intentions when you acted mean nothing when it comes to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. (In fact, if there’s evidence you intended to kill the other person, you could be facing even stiffer charges.)
What are the penalties for an involuntary manslaughter conviction?
Involuntary manslaughter is a Class 3 felony. Probation may be available in a few situations, but the minimum prison time is usually two years and can be as many as five.
Conviction is not a foregone conclusion, however. Those accused of involuntary manslaughter can raise numerous defenses, including that their actions were nothing more than ordinary negligence or that they were acting in self-defense or in the defense of others.
If you or your loved one are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney before you speak to the police.