Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
Generally, the prison sentence for negligent homicide is at least several years in length. In California, for example, a conviction carries up to 4 years in prison. The precise sentencing range will depend on the state. Aggravating factors and the defendant’s criminal background may significantly increase the sentence. The offense is less severe than other types of murder because negligent homicides are unintentional.
The potential prison sentence for negligent homicide will depend on the state. However, most states treat the offense as a low- to mid-level felony. Felonies are crimes that carry more than 1 year in prison. Generally, convictions for negligent homicide carry several years in prison. Some aggravating factors may increase the prison time, like the use of a deadly weapon or if the victim was a law enforcement officer. The defendant’s criminal history may also lead to longer prison sentences.
In Arizona, for example, negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony. In that state, felonies are divided into 3 groups:
When negligent homicide is committed without a dangerous instrument or a deadly weapon, it is a non-dangerous felony. A conviction carries a prison sentence of between 1 year and 3 years and 9 months.1 The potential sentence increases if the defendant has a prior conviction for a felony. If this is the case, the potential sentence increases to between 2 years and 3 months and 7 years and 6 months.2 If the defendant has 2 or more prior felony convictions, the sentencing range for negligent homicide increases to a minimum sentence of 6 years and a maximum of 15 years.3
If the negligent homicide was committed with a dangerous instrument or a deadly weapon, it is a dangerous felony. The sentencing range for a first-time conviction is 4 to 8 years.4 Defendants with a prior felony conviction for a dangerous offense face between 8 and 12 years in prison.5 Defendants with 2 or more of these prior convictions face between 12 and 16 years in prison.6
Another example is New York. There, the offense is called criminally negligent homicide. It is a Class E felony.7 A conviction carries an indeterminate prison sentencing range of between 1 and 4 years.8 For a second offense, the sentencing range is between 3 and 4 years.9
The criminal law in New York also includes the crime of aggravated criminally negligent homicide. This offense covers criminally negligent homicides of peace or police officers in the line of duty. If the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was an officer, the offense becomes a Class C felony.10 These convictions carry between 3 years and 6 months and 15 years in prison.11
The crime of negligent homicide generally carries similar prison sentences in other states.
A criminal case of negligent homicide is a serious crime. Defendants should get the legal advice of a criminal defense lawyer from a local law office to raise an effective defense.
Defendants convicted for negligent homicide will likely have to pay a fine, in addition to serving prison time. They may also be sued for wrongful death by the victim’s family members. They will also face the collateral consequences of having a felony conviction on their criminal record.
Like the potential prison terms, the fines for negligent homicide will depend on the state. They can vary quite significantly. For example, the fines for negligent homicide are up to:
Judges have lots of discretion in imposing a fine.
The victim’s loved ones may also choose to file a personal injury claim against the defendant for wrongful death. These claims demand financial compensation for the victim’s death.
Defendants are also likely to face discrimination from other people after their release from prison. This comes in the form of collateral consequences for their felony conviction. Some examples include:
In some cases, though, the defendant may be sentenced to probation rather than to prison. This possibility is often within the judge’s discretion. If the judge decides to put the defendant on probation, he or she will suspend the prison sentence and then impose a term of probation, instead.
Probation lets the defendant stay out of prison. However, there are numerous terms and conditions of release. These can be quite onerous. Some common terms of probation include:
The crime of criminally negligent homicide is defined as the killing of a human being with criminal negligence.
In many states, “another person” includes an unborn child.15
Criminal negligence is often defined as behavior that shows a disregard for an unjustifiable risk to human life. It generally involves conduct that a reasonable person would have known creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury.16
In many states, vehicular homicide is treated as a separate criminal offense. This often means that drunk drivers who cause a fatal car accident will not face a charge of negligent homicide. Instead, they will face charges under a different criminal homicide statute. These are generally for the offense of vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter.
In California, negligent homicide cases are typically charged as involuntary manslaughter (Penal Code 192(b) PC). Convictions for this offense carry 2, 3, or 4 years in jail as well as up to $10,000 in fines.17
The conviction can also count as a “strike” under California’s three-strikes law if the defendant killed someone else with a firearm or some other deadly or dangerous weapon.18
The criminal elements of the crime of involuntary manslaughter in California are:
A negligent homicide that was caused during an inherently dangerous felony will lead to a criminal charge of murder under California’s felony-murder rule.20
Criminal negligence is defined as:
However, involuntary manslaughter does not cover conduct involving a motor vehicle. These cases, which often involve driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), are charged under California’s law for vehicular manslaughter (Penal Code 192(c) PC).
People facing voluntary manslaughter charges in California should strongly consider establishing an attorney-client relationship with a criminal defense attorney from reputable law firm.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.