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Negligent Homicide Defined

Negligent Homicide

How can murder be due to negligence?

There are a number of ways the negligence of others can lead to the unlawful killing of another individual. For instance, failure to follow adequate safety rules may lead to the death of employees. Failure to follow rules and regulations when manufacturing consumer products may also violate common standards of conduct, leading to the death of others.

What are types of negligent homicide?

  • Professional negligence – Whenever the conduct of a professional while in the process or as a result of rendering services create circumstance that lead to the death of another individual, then that professional has committed negligent homicide. A doctor, for example, may fail to follow standards of hygiene expected by society and his professional peers. When this breech of professional conduct causes a deadly infection in a patient, it can be argued that the doctor’s negligence in providing sanitary conditions creates circumstances that lead to the patient’s death. The doctor lacks malice and intent but is otherwise responsible due to his negligence.
  • Vehicular negligence – recklessness in the operation of any motor vehicle from cars to boats and plane can result in the accidental death of others. Even if the operator is not director involved in the physical act that kills the victim, he or she may have created dangerous circumstances that caused the accidental killing. There are additional penalties and a high assumption of mens rea or “guilty mind” if the individual knowingly operated the motor vehicle with a suspended or expired license or failed to take adequate precautions. For example, in New York State, the operator of a vehicle that kills a person while carrying over eighteen tons of hazardous materials can be changes with a class D felony. The operator of a vehicle that kills an individual while driving with a suspended license will be charged with Vehicular manslaughter in the first degree, which is a class C felony.
  • Intoxication – excessive intoxication may lead to an increase in reckless behavior, which in turn, can potentially create a hazardous situation for others. These circumstances ultimately result in the unlawful killing of the victim, but there is a low assumption of mens rea as the accused frequently lacks the malice and intent to harm the victim. The individual may be found negligent if his intoxicated state contributed to unsafe circumstances, as his recklessness is assumed to be atypical behavior and a deviation from the conduct of a “reasonable person.”

How do jurisdictions normally classify negligent murder?

Should the negligent actions of an individual result in the death of another, then most jurisdictions will find grounds from criminal liability. Negligent homicide is typically classified as involuntary manslaughter, due to the implied lack of malice and intent. Should the prosecutor or investigators discover malice and/or intent, then the mens rea of the accused will be upgraded from “negligent” to “knowingly” or “purposely” seeking the death of the victim. As mentioned above, certain violations of other safety laws, such as failure to obtain proper permits or licenses will cause charges to be upgraded in severity.
Source: New York State Penal Code

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