Involuntary Manslaughter: An Unintentional Killing
All deaths in which one person kills another are homicides, but not all Oklahoma homicides rise to the level of a criminal act. The absence of intent can affect how, and if a homicide crime is charged, but absence of intent alone does not indicate a lawful homicide.
Murder is the most serious kind of homicide. Murder is a criminal act and is usually done with intent to kill.
Manslaughter is a death that occurs without a specific intent to kill. Because manslaughter is defined as an unintended killing, all Oklahoma manslaughter charges could be described as involuntary manslaughter. For an Oklahoma court to convict on an involuntary manslaughter charge, there must not be any specific intent to kill the victim.
Instead, manslaughter in Oklahoma is a crime of negligence. A person’s negligent act causes the death of another. Without evidence of negligence, a killing might be deemed excusable homicide, not involuntary manslaughter and not subject to prosecution.
Oklahoma classifies manslaughter homicides by degree. Manslaughter is classified as either in the first or in the second degree. Second-degree manslaughter is a death resulting from negligence that does not show depraved disregard for human life, and without the elements of cruelty, undue force, or dangerous weapons that would support a first-degree manslaughter charge.
Oklahoma law defines second-degree manslaughter as any killing that occurs as the result of an act or negligence, but:
- does not constitute murder,
- does not constitute manslaughter in the first degree, and
- is not either excusable or justifiable homicide.
It a felony crime punishable by a year in the county jail or two to four years in prison. A fine of up to $1,000 may be assessed in lieu of or in addition to incarceration. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 722
Second-Degree Murder Compared
In Oklahoma, a homicide is defined as murder in the second degree when the death occurs because of an act that is imminently dangerous to another and which shows a depraved mind, regardless of human life, but without premeditation, or when the act occurs while a person is engaged in committing a felony. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.8
Second-degree murder is punishable by a prison term of from 10 years to life. Second-degree murder requires both a dangerous act and a “depraved mind.” Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.9
There is no specific intent to kill in second-degree murder, but there may well be an intent to cause an injury that results in death. The perpetrator acts with imminently dangerous conduct in total disregard for the life, health, and safety of others. In comparison to manslaughter, the death is usually accidental.
In Oklahoma, first-degree manslaughter is a homicide in which the death occurs without intent to kill or “malice aforethought” and without the “depraved mind” that are the elements of murder under Oklahoma law.
Under Oklahoma law, first-degree manslaughter may occur when:
- There is no intent to kill and the death occurs during the commission of a misdemeanor (e.g., an accident while driving with a suspended license accidentally causes the death of another);
- There is no intent to kill and the death occurs in the heat of passion, but in a cruel and unusual manner, or by means of a dangerous weapon, and the death is not otherwise excused or justified (e.g., A wife and her lover are surprised by a husband who shoots them in a fit of rage); or
- The death is unnecessary and it occurs either while resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime, or after a failed attempt. For example, if a person detains an intruder who surrenders upon being confronted during a late-night burglary, then the person continued to pummel the intruder to death after the intruder no longer posed a threat, the burglary victim could be charged with first-degree manslaughter. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 711
First-degree manslaughter may also occur when an intoxicated doctor inadvertently gives the wrong medicine or a medical treatment to a patient that results in the death of the patient. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 712
Penalties for First-Degree Manslaughter
First-degree manslaughter is a felony in Oklahoma. If convicted, the minimum sentence you will face is four years in prison. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 715
Additionally, this crime is subject to the 85% rule. That means that you will serve at least 85% of that time before you are released from prison.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are convicted of manslaughter or second-degree murder, you could spend many years in prison.
If charged, it is important that you hire an experienced Tulsa criminal defense attorney. Because a Tulsa attorney is most familiar the Tulsa courts and judiciary, your local attorney can represent you with confidence in the local court system.
To set up your free consultation, call 918-879-1681 or toll free at 1-888-Wirth-Law (1-888-947-8452). You can also submit the question form at the top right of this page.