Although the burden of proving intent is lower than it is for murder, Florida law requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt several other important elements of the crime of involuntary manslaughter to sustain a conviction. What follows is an examination of those elements and how a Florida criminal defense attorney is likely to go about mounting a defense against the charge of involuntary manslaughter in Florida.
Involuntary manslaughter in Florida consists of three elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution:
The defendant committed an inherently dangerous or reckless act, the defendant knew the act was dangerous or reckless, and another person was killed as a result.
Although there is typically an intent element in most crimes, no intent need be proven in Florida to sustain a conviction of involuntary manslaughter.
As with all of the homicide crimes, a defendant may claim he or she acted in self defense, which justified his or her actions. However, the burden of proving self defense is upon the party claiming it. Therefore, when claiming self defense against a manslaughter charge in Florida, the defendant must show that they had a reasonable belief that they were about to be killed or seriously injured, and that the force used to repel that threat was reasonable. If so, an acquittal is likely the result.
Although reckless or negligent acts sometimes cause accidents, it is also frequent that an accident may happen despite no reckless nor negligent act. The defendant would show that they were, in fact, acting in a responsible manner and that the accident happened anyway, such as in the case of a person stepping out in front of the defendant’s car from behind a tall vehicle. If the defendant was operating his vehicle in a responsible and appropriate manner but still struck and killed the pedestrian, the defendant may use the defense of accident to obtain an acquittal.
Lack Of Evidence
As with all crimes, if the prosecution cannot produce sufficient evidence that the crime actually happened, the likely result is that they will be unable to obtain a conviction. Frequently evidence is mishandled by law enforcement or prosecutors, making that evidence subject to attack and possible exclusion. Evidence may have also been collected in an improper manner or in such a way that it violates the defendant’s rights. In this case, not only can the evidence wrongfully collected be challenged, any “fruit of the poisonous tree,” or evidence that is discovered because of that improperly-collected evidence is also subject to be excluded from trial.
As with many things, interpretation of facts in hand can change the conclusions drawn from them. A good defense attorney will challenge such interpretations and attempt to introduce reasonable doubt.
Law enforcement officers are humans, and they sometimes make mistakes. Defendants often use the defense of false accusation to obtain an acquittal, or they may use the well-known SODDI defense (“some other dude did it”) to defend themselves against involuntary manslaughter charges in Florida.