Negligent homicide is when a person dies as a result of someone else’s criminal negligence.

Each state determines how to define negligent homicide and what the corresponding punishment is. Negligent homicide cases are charged as involuntary manslaughter in California.

Involuntary manslaughter can apply in cases of both reckless homicide and negligent homicide. As a felony, involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to four years in jail or prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Involuntary manslaughter in California

When a jury determines whether to convict someone of a crime, they consider whether or not certain facts of the case were true. These are known as the “elements of the crime.”

Involuntary manslaughter (Penal Code 192b PC) has three elements.

  1. The defendant broke a California state law that is not an inherently dangerous felony, or committed a lawful act in an unlawful manner.
  2. The act involved “criminal negligence.”
  3. The act caused someone else’s death.

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.

Next, the prosecutor must show that the defendant acted with “criminal negligence,” which is much more than simple carelessness.

Instead, to prove criminal negligence, the prosecutor must show that the defendant:

  1. Acted in a reckless way that created a high risk of great bodily injury or death, and
  2. A reasonable person would’ve known that acting in such a way would create that risk.

Defenses in negligent homicide cases

Negligent homicide cases are usually simple accidents. It can make an unfortunate situation even worse when a person dies under unusual circumstances, and the police are often the first on the scene, determined to find a crime when there often wasn’t one.

It’s important to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney if you or someone you know has been accused of negligent homicide. Your attorney will work with you to review the facts of the case with you and build your defense. A good attorney will be your advocate inside the courtroom and out, and they will keep you informed throughout the process.

Every attorney is different, and it’s important to thoroughly interview a number of attorneys to find the right one for you. Robert M. Helfend is a SuperLawyers rated trial attorney, specializing in homicide cases in the Los Angeles area. Call today for a free, no risk case review – 800-834-6434