Involuntary manslaughter in Illinois is the least severe of the homicide charges in the state.
Unlike murder charges, involuntary manslaughter involves unintentional killings. So while a defendant usually has an intent to kill the victim in a first or second degree murder case, when it comes to involuntary manslaughter, the killing is usually an accident or the result of a reckless act.
For example, someone who fires off a gun to celebrate July Fourth may be charged with involuntary manslaughter if the shooting accidentally kills a neighbor.
How to Prove Involuntary Manslaughter?
To prove involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors generally have to show that the accused person acted recklessly. This means that the defendant disregarded substantial and unjustifiable risks that a reasonable person would have exercised, like not firing a gun in celebration in a crowded room.
Involuntary manslaughter is distinguished from murder because prosecutors do not have to show the defendant acted "knowing" that his actions would cause death or serious injury.
How Is Involuntary Manslaughter Punished?
Involuntary manslaughter is typically classified as a Class 3 felony in Illinois. Someone convicted of this charge can face up to five years in jail. In contrast, someone convicted of murder faces a possible life sentence.
However, a defendant should know that aggravating circumstances may exist which can elevate involuntary manslaughter to a Class 2 felony. Some aggravating circumstances can include whether the victim is a peace officer or if the victim is a family member of the defendant.
Some common defenses to involuntary manslaughter can include:
- Self defense,
- An accidental as opposed to a reckless act, and
Perhaps the most common defense is arguing that the killing was not reckless. A defendant can offer that he exercised reasonable care in his actions and that the death was just an unfortunate accident.