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Negligent Homicide

Penal Code 192(b) PC - Negligent Homicide in California

Negligent homicide in California is a crime when someone commits an act of criminal negligence that leads to the taking of a human life. Criminal negligence is when someone ignores a known or obvious risk or disregards the safety of others.

PC 192(b) negligent homicide is an act of criminal negligence resulting in someone's death.

In California, negligent homicide cases are filed as Penal Code 192b PC involuntary manslaughter. Suppose someone is texting and driving at a high rate of speed and strikes and kills a pedestrian crossing the street at an intersection. In that case, the driver could be charged with negligent homicide.

PC 192(b) says, "Involuntary-in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection. This subdivision shall not apply to acts committed in driving a vehicle."

Notably, criminal negligence is more than just ordinary negligence. It's extreme carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. It means someone acted in a reckless way that creates a high risk of great bodily injury or death, and a reasonable person would have known that acting that way would create such a risk.

To convict someone of negligent homicide, the district attorney must prove that the defendant committed a crime or a lawful act in an unlawful manner and committed the crime or act with criminal negligence that caused the death of another person.

What is Negligent Homicide?

The district attorney will prosecute negligent homicide cases under California Penal Code 192(b) PC, which is characterized as involuntary manslaughter.

This crime occurs when a death results from a non-felony unlawful act or during the commission of a lawful act that may produce death or a failure to perform a duty that demonstrates a disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences.

This law does not apply to deaths resulting from intentional acts, which are prosecuted under other laws. Instead, the crucial element of the crime is the level of negligence or carelessness involved. The district attorney must prove several elements of the crime to establish negligent homicide, such as the following:

  • The defendant committed a negligent act or failed to perform a duty where such negligence is considered a gross deviation from the standard conduct that a reasonable person would observe under the same situation.
  • The neglect was dangerous to human life, meaning the act must be inherently dangerous or done under circumstances likely to cause great bodily harm or death.
  • The negligent act caused someone's death. There must be a direct causal link between the defendant's act or inaction and the victim's death.

To obtain a conviction for involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with criminal negligence.

This means they must demonstrate that the defendant's actions were more than a mistake, judgment error, or accident. Instead, they must show that the defendant's conduct was a gross deviation from how a reasonable person would act in a similar situation.

Negligent Homicide - Quick Facts

  • Negligent homicide refers to a situation where somebody's negligent actions result in the death of another person.
  • This offense falls under involuntary manslaughter, defined under Penal Code 192(b) PC.
  • Negligent homicide means someone's actions do not carry the malicious intent to kill but are so patently negligent or dangerous that death occurs.
  • Criminal negligence occurs when someone ignores a known or obvious risk or disregards the life and safety of others.
  • Criminal negligence also refers to reckless actions that demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for the likelihood that such behavior could result in the death of another.
  • Negligent homicide is charged as a felony and could result in several years in state prison if convicted.
  • Establishing the presence of criminal negligence, which differs from ordinary negligence, is crucial to prosecuting negligent homicide.
  • Ordinary negligence refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm.

What are Related Crimes?

Several California laws are related to Penal Code 192(b) negligent homicide, including the following:

  • Penal Code 192(a) PC voluntary manslaughter. This statute makes it a crime when someone is killed during a sudden quarrel in the heat of passion or an honest but unreasonable belief you need to defend yourself.
  • Penal Code 191.5 PC gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. This statute makes it a crime to commit vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The prosecutor must show that you acted with criminal and gross negligence to obtain a conviction.
  • Penal Code 187 PC murder. The crime of murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. First-degree murder charges include premeditated killings and felony murder. Murder is the more severe form of manslaughter and carries 25 years to life in state prison if convicted.

What are the Penalties?

Negligent homicide (involuntary manslaughter) in California is a felony offense that carries the following punishments:

  • Sentences can range from probation with no jail time to four years in state prison, depending on case details and the defendant's criminal history.
  • Fines up to $10,000.
  • A felony conviction can result in forfeiture of your right to own or possess a firearm or to hold a professional license.

What are the Common Defenses?

As discussed below, a California criminal defense attorney could use different strategies against negligent homicide charges under PC 192(b).

Perhaps we can argue about self-defense or the defense of others. Sometimes, it may be argued that your actions, though resulting in death, were taken in self-defense or defense of others. We can show that you took appropriate action because of a perceived threat of imminent harm.

Perhaps we can argue that there was no criminal negligence. Arguing that your actions did not rise to criminal negligence is a common legal defense. We could also show that you were responsible under the circumstances.

Perhaps we can argue it was an accident without negligence. If the death resulted from an unforeseeable accident in which you were not acting negligently, this could serve as a valid defense. For more information, please contact our law firm, Cron, Israels & Stark, in Los Angeles, CA.

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