Involuntary manslaughter is causing a person’s death by your own reckless or grossly negligent actions. In this type of manslaughter, it’s the disregard for the safety of others or risk of death that makes the actions criminal, rather than any intent to harm the victim. Minnesota also views these accidental deaths as criminal, but doesn't penalize the crime as severely as an intentional killing.
Involuntary manslaughter in Minnesota is called manslaughter in the second degree. In addition, there are two types of criminal vehicular homicide, one for humans and another for unborn fetuses. All of these are below the intentional homicide crimes of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter. Vehicular homicide is prohibited to address negligent driving, such as drunk driving or texting and driving.
Depraved Heart Murder vs. Criminally Negligent Manslaughter
Depraved heart murder is a part of the Minnesota murder in the third degree statute. This is causing an act so eminently dangerous to others that you would not have done it without having a completely depraved heart or mind. An example of this crime is walking into the middle of a crowd and shooting a gun in any direction. In other words, not actually intending to kill a specific person, but doing so just to see what would happened. This isn’t socially acceptable because we all know it’s extremely likely to cause harm.
In comparison, the type of criminal negligence that arises in manslaughter in the second degree in Minnesota are actions that are likely to cause harm to others, but there’s no eminence to the risk, necessarily. For example, rock climbing at night without ropes is dangerous. If you add throwing rocks at your friend while on the cliff as a not-so-funny practical joke, and that causes him to fall off and die, you may be charged manslaughter in the second degree. Even if you didn’t intend to kill your friend, your actions were unreasonably risky. Additionally, playing chicken with a car that causes the other driver to be run off the road, hit a telephone pole, and die could be criminal vehicular homicide or involuntary manslaughter.
The following table outlines Minnesota’s involuntary manslaughter laws.
What is Prohibited?
Minnesota law provides for several forms of accidental death killing that are still criminal
Both manslaughter in the second degree and criminal vehicular homicide (either a person or unborn child killed) can be punished by no more than 10 years in prison and not more than a $20,000 fine.
For comparison, murder in the third degree can be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.
It’s a defense to manslaughter in the second degree that the victim provoked the dangerous animal, causing the victim’s death. An example of this would be if the tiger in the San Francisco Zoo who killed a 17 year old in 2007 after being teased and taunted by the four young men, had been privately owned. The defendant must prove it was the victim’s fault by a preponderance of the evidence.
Note: State laws change often, it's important to verify the laws you’re researching.
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