The crime of involuntary manslaughter in Florida is a serious offense, and the laws surrounding it are not as simple as they might seem. What follows is a brief overview of the laws of involuntary manslaughter in Florida.
The western legal tradition has long recognized a difference in the severity of an unlawful killing if that killing wasn’t intentional. Athenian lawmaker Draco is believed to be the first to make such a distinction nearly three millennia ago, and it has appeared in English common law for as far back as records exist.
In general, involuntary manslaughter in the United States is defined as the killing of another person without having the intent to kill, but the victim’s death is due to the defendant’s negligent or reckless actions.
To obtain a conviction of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors must prove that the defendant acted with “culpable negligence.” Per Florida statute, culpable negligence is when one disregards human life when engaging in reckless or wanton behavior. The defendant must not have intended to kill anyone during this behavior, however.
In certain situations it is illegal under Florida law to kill another person even in self defense. In Florida, if the defendant is deemed to have used excessive force and a death is the result, prosecutors may seek to prove that self defense was not necessary in that situation, or the justified use of force continued beyond the time when the defendant reasonably believed that the force was necessary.
Florida law considers involuntary manslaughter of certain groups of people to be more serious than other acts of involuntary manslaughter. Causing the death of an elderly person or disabled adult by culpable negligence is a first degree felony. So too is killing a person under the age of 18 by culpable negligence. The culpable negligence killing of a police officer, fire fighter, EMT, or paramedic is also a first degree felony.
A conviction of involuntary manslaughter is a second degree felony, which is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 15 years in prison, up to 15 years of probation, and a fine of up to $10,000.
In the case of aggravated manslaughter, the conviction is a first degree felony and could lead to a prison sentence of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Florida law also allows courts to take into account the defendant’s previous criminal record. If the prosecution can show that the defendant is an habitual offender, the defendant’s sentence may be longer than the statutory maximum.
Self defense and involuntary manslaughter go hand in hand. If the defendant can show that he or she reasonably believed the force used against the victim was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm, the jury may acquit him or her of involuntary manslaughter.
A defendant may also claim that the death of the victim was the result of an accident. In order to do so, they must show that their actions were not the type of recklessness that qualifies as culpable negligence.