Manslaughter involves the killing of a person in a manner considered by law as less culpable than murder. Minnesota law differentiates between levels of criminal culpability based on the state of mind of the perpetrator. Manslaughter includes two distinct categories: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
Voluntary manslaughter involves a situation where there is intent to cause death or serious injury, but the liability for the defendant is reduced by the specific circumstances surrounding the act and the state of mind of the defendant. A common example involves a “heat of passion” killing, such as witnessing a violent attack against a child and responding with force resulting in death.
Involuntary manslaughter, or negligent or criminal vehicular homicide, occurs where there is no intent to kill or cause serious injury, but death results from reckless disregard for the rights of others or an act of negligence. A common example involves the death of a motorist as a result of an accident caused by a drunk driver.
Minnesota manslaughter statutes contain three categories of manslaughter:
First Degree Manslaughter
Whoever (1) intentionally causes 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 like circumstances, provided that the crying of a child does not constitute provocation; (2) commits an assault and causes the death of another or causes the death of another in committing, or attempting to commit, a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense with such force and violence that death of, or great bodily harm to, any person was reasonably foreseeable, and murder in the first or second degree was not committed thereby; (3) intentionally causes the death of another person because the defendant is coerced by threats made by someone other than the defendant’s co-conspirator and which cause the defendant reasonably to believe that the act performed by the defendant is the only means of preventing imminent death to the defendant or another; (4) proximately causes the death of another, without intent to cause death by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in schedule III, IV, or V; or (5) causes the death of another in committing or attempting to engage in malicious punishment of a child, and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed, thereby is guilty of first-degree manslaughter.
Second Degree Manslaughter
A person who causes the death of another by : (1) culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another; (2) by shooting another with a firearm or other dangerous weapon as a result of negligently believing the other to be a deer or other animal; (3) by setting a spring gun, pit fall, deadfall, snare, or other like dangerous weapon or device; (4) 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 negligently failing to keep it properly confined; or (5) by committing or attempting to commit neglect or endangerment of a child, and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby is guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
Criminal Vehicular Homicide
A person is guilty of criminal vehicular homicide or operation if the person causes injury to, or the death of, another as a result of operating a motor vehicle: (1) in a grossly negligent manner; (2) in a negligent manner while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; (3) where the driver who causes the accident leaves the scene of the accident; or (4) where the driver had actual knowledge that a peace officer had previously issued a citation or warning that the motor vehicle was defectively maintained, the driver had actual knowledge that remedial action was not taken, the driver had reason to know that the defect created a present danger to others, and the injury or death was caused by the defective maintenance.
If you’ve been arrested and face a manslaughter charge in Minnesota you should call a lawyer immediately. The stakes are high. The earlier you involve an attorney, the sooner we can gather evidence, interview witnesses, and address other important issues in your case. Call our law firm now for a free consultation: (218) 736-5456.