Florida Involuntary Manslaughter Laws
Overview of Florida Involuntary Manslaughter Laws
When a homicide, the killing of a human being, does not meet the legal definition of murder, Florida state laws allow a prosecutor to consider a manslaughter charge. The state establishes two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. While voluntary manslaughter describes an intentional act performed during a provocation or heat of passion, involuntary manslaughter does not require an intent to kill or even an intent to perform that act resulting in the victim's death.
To establish involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor must show that the defendant acted with "culpable negligence." Florida statutes define culpable negligence as a disregard for human life while engaging in wanton or reckless behavior. The state may be able to prove involuntary manslaughter by showing the defendant's recklessness or lack of care when handling a dangerous instrument or weapon, or while engaging in a range of other activities that could lead to death if performed recklessly.
- Example: If the defendant handles a loaded gun without any knowledge of whether the gun is loaded, and he later discharges the gun into a group of people, the defendant's actions likely meet the recklessness requirement for a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Florida state laws also establish involuntary manslaughter if the prosecutor shows that the defendant used excessive force during self-defense or the defense of another person. The prosecution and defense can look at the facts and circumstances of the killing to determine whether the defendant reasonably believed that self-defense was necessary; if not necessary, the state might proceed with an involuntary manslaughter charge.
Defenses to Involuntary Manslaughter Charges
- Justifiable use of deadly force to defend against a felony committed against a person or property
- Excusable homicide committed by accident -- for this defense in an involuntary manslaughter case, the defendant must show that she acted without recklessness qualifying as culpable negligence
Penalties and Sentences
Florida state laws establish manslaughter as a second degree felony, which may result in a term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years, a fine of an amount up to $10,000, or both. If the defendant committed aggravated manslaughter, such as manslaughter of a child or elderly person by culpable negligence, the state treats the offense as a first degree felony, which increases the potential term of imprisonment to a maximum of thirty years. Florida laws also require the state to consider the defendant's criminal history and determine whether the defendant is a career criminal or habitual violent offender; if so, the state may be able to increase the defendant's punishment.
Florida Involuntary Manslaughter Statute
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.