District of Columbia Involuntary Manslaughter Laws

Not all killings of human beings are intentional. These unintentional slayings of a human usually are the result of reckless acts that amount to criminal negligence. The most common way that this act can occur is when someone drives home drunk and accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian. District of Columbia law classifies these type of killings as involuntary manslaughter. This is a quick summary of involuntary manslaughter in the District of Columbia.

Overview of District of Columbia Involuntary Manslaughter

Under District of Columbia involuntary manslaughter law, a killing of a human will be reduced from murder to involuntary manslaughter if the killing was unintentional. Under the District of Columbia's criminal code, there are two distinct ways in which a killing can amount to involuntary manslaughter. The following table outlines the specifics.

Code Sections

District of Columbia Official Code §21-21: Murder; Manslaughter

What's Prohibited?

Under District of Columbia involuntary manslaughter law, the crime can either be classified as criminal-negligence manslaughter or misdemeanor manslaughter.

Involuntary, Criminal-Negligence Manslaughter

The elements of involuntary criminal-negligence manslaughter are:

  • Defendant caused the death of the victim;
  • The conduct that caused the death was a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care; and
  • The conduct that caused the death created an extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury.

Involuntary, Misdemeanor Manslaughter

The elements of involuntary misdemeanor manslaughter are:

  • Defendant caused the death of the victim;
  • Defendant did so while committing or attempting to commit an underlying misdemeanor; and
  • Defendant committed or attempted to commit the underlying misdemeanor in a manner that created a reasonably foreseeable risk of appreciable physical injury.
A foreseeable risk of appreciable physical injury exists when physical injury is a possible consequence of the crime that is committed or attempted. Intent to kill does not need to be proven.

Penalty

Under District of Columbia involuntary manslaughter law, whoever is guilty of manslaughter will be sentenced to a period of imprisonment up to 30 years.

Self Defense

District of Columbia criminal laws state that a person has the right to use a reasonable amount of force in self-defense if he or she actually believes that there is imminent danger of bodily harm and if he or she has reasonable grounds for that belief. The question is whether the defendant, under the circumstances according to the defendant, actually believed that imminent danger of bodily harm was present and that belief was reasonable.

Acts involving the death of another human being are extremely grave situations. It is important that you fully understand the extent of your charges and all of your rights. If you have been accused of involuntary manslaughter and require legal assistance, you can contact a District of Columbia criminal defense lawyer through FindLaw. Visit FindLaw's sections on involuntary manslaughter and criminal charges for more articles and information on this topic.

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