Manslaughter - Involuntary

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Manslaughter is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. Involuntary manslaughter is homicide in which there is no intention to kill or do grievous bodily harm, but that is committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of a crime not included within the felony murder rule.[1] The minimum level of culpability is generally criminal negligence; civil negligence or carelessness is insufficient to prove manslaughter.[2] Involuntary manslaughter is sometimes referred to as negligent or second degree manslaughter. The term "involuntary manslaughter" is sometimes referred to as a catch-all phrase, meaning that every unintentional killing of a person is involuntary manslaughter if it is not murder or voluntary manslaughter.

Model Penal Code

The Model Penal Code defines involuntary manslaughter when an individual commits criminal homicide in a reckless manner.[3] Criminal homicide is a broad concept: the Code states that an individual commits criminal homicide when a person "purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently causes the death of another human being."[4] Manslaughter is a third degree felony. The Model Penal Code also has a separate article for negligent homicide, which is homicide committed when the perpetrator has a negligent mens rea.[5]

Variation by Jurisdiction


In Georgia, under section 16-5-3 of the Criminal Code, a person commits involuntary manslaughter when "he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony."[6] This offense is punishable by imprisonment from one to ten years. A person can also commit involuntary manslaughter by committing an lawful act in an unlawful manner that is likely to cause death or great bodily harm.[7] This charge is categorized and punishable as a misdemeanor.

New York

New York's Penal Code does not address involuntary manslaughter specifically. Rather, it divides manslaughter into two categories: first degree and second degree. Involuntary manslaughter is covered by the the categorization of manslaughter in the second degree, section 125.15. Under this section, a person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when he recklessly causes the death of another.[8] Second degree manslaughter is a class C felony.

Common Defenses

For many types of homicide, the affirmative defenses of self defense and defense of others may be applicable to the case.

Foreign Jurisdictions


In the German Criminal Code, sections 212 & 213 address the concept of manslaughter:

  • Section 212 - Manslaughter
    • (1) Whoever kills a human being without being a murderer, shall be punished for manslaughter with imprisonment for not less than five years.
    • (2) In especially serious cases imprisonment for life shall be imposed.
  • Section 213 - Less Serious Case of Manslaughter
    • If the person committing manslaughter was provoked to rage by maltreatment inflicted on him or a relative or a serious insult by the person killed and was thereby immediately torn to commit the act, or in the event of an otherwise less serious case, the punishment shall be imprisonment from one year to ten years.[9]


Rather than separating manslaughter into voluntary and involuntary crimes, the Kenyan Penal Code section 202 addresses the general crime of manslaughter. The Code defines manslaughter as an unlawful act or omission that causes the death of another. An unlawful omission is "an omission amounting to culpable negligence to discharge a duty tending to the preservation of life or health, whether such omission is or is not accompanied by an intention to cause death or bodily harm."[10] Manslaughter is punishable by life imprisonment.

See Crimes


  1. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009).
  2. Homicide, American Jurisprudence, Second Edition (2010).
  3. Model Penal Code, § 210.3 (2001).
  4. Model Penal Code, § 210.1 (2001).
  5. Model Penal Code, § 210.4 (2001).
  6. Georgia Criminal Code, Chapter 5, Article 1, § 16-5-3(a) (2010).
  7. Georgia Criminal Code, Chapter 5, Article 1, § 16-5-3(a) (2010).
  8. New York Penal Code, Title H, §125.15 (2009).
  9. German Criminal Code, sections 212 & 213
  10. Kenya Penal Code