What is Manslaughter?
There are two degrees of Manslaughter in Minnesota. What distinguishes manslaughter from murder is the state of mind or circumstances under which the death was caused, but usually it is without intent. Once again, the law surrounding manslaughter is complicated and can be confusing for defendants and jurors. Often people are charged with manslaughter in addition to murder, because the facts could encompass either, and prosecutors want to get a conviction for something involving the death or another.
Manslaughter in the First Degree
Under Minnesota Law, a person is guilty of this crime if they intentionally cause the death of another person in the heat of passion provoked by such words or acts of another as would provoke a person of ordinary self-control under similar circumstances. The “heat of passion” does not excuse the defendant’s actions, but describes a mental state wherein a person’s reason is clouded and their will-power weakened in the circumstances. The law specifically says that a crying baby can never be sufficient provocation to result in the death of a child.
First Degree Manslaughter can also include:
Causing the death of another while committing or attempting commit a misdemeanor with such force and violence that death or great bodily harm was reasonably foreseeable;
Proximately causing the death of another without intent, by providing directly or indirectly, controlled substances;
Causing the death of a child while committing malicious punishment of said child;
Causing the death of another person under the coercion of another and with the reasonable belief that performing the act (that causes the death) is the only means of preventing the death of themselves or another.
The maximum penalty for Manslaughter in the First Degree is 15 years in prison.
Manslaughter in the Second Degree
This level of manslaughter is basically based on a negligence standard. Under Minnesota law a person is guilty of this crime if they
by culpable negligence, create an unreasonable risk and consciously takes the chance of causing death or great bodily harm to another person,
by shooting another person with a firearm or other dangerous weapon, negligently believing the person to be a deer or other animal,
by setting a (spring gun)(pit fall)(deadfall)(snare) or other similar dangerous weapon or device,
by negligently or intentionally permitting any animal, known by the person to have vicious propensities or to have caused great or substantial bodily harm in the past, to run uncontrolled off the owner's premises, or by negligently failing to keep it properly confined.
The maximum penalty for Manslaughter in the Second Degree is 10 years in prison.
What is the difference between Murder and Manslaughter in Minnesota?
The difference between Murder and Manslaughter in Minnesota has to do with the state of mind of the defendant and the circumstances under which the death occurred.
Death of an Unborn Child
It is a crime to cause the death of an unborn child. Depending on the circumstances, a person could be charged with Murder or Manslaughter. The State has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in the heat of passion.
Criminal Vehicular Operation
Under Minnesota law, a person who operates a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and causes the death of another person, is guilty of criminal vehicular homicide. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.
There are also statutes that make it a crime for operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causing great bodily harm to another person, as well as leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Are there defenses to Manslaughter?
Yes, depending on the circumstances, there may be several defenses that can be raised. Every case is different and a good defense depends on the defendant’s situation. There are no cookie-cutter defenses in serious cases.
If you or someone you love has been accused of causing the death of another person or unborn child, it is critical that you get an experienced criminal defense attorney. The law is complicated and the stakes are high. Catherine has experience representing clients accused of Murder and Manslaughter and can help. Call today for a free consultation.