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Involuntary manslaughter: An unintentional killing

Involuntary manslaughter charges occur when a person unintentionally causes the death of another person through reckless, unlawful or negligent behavior. Although not as severe as murder charges, the accidental killing of another person is still a criminal act.

The resulting death may have been an accident, but the risky actions and disregard for safety leading up to the death make the outcome a punishable crime.

Categorized charges

Tennessee divides acts of involuntary manslaughter into three categories of reckless homicide, criminally negligent homicide and vehicular homicide. Charges for involuntary manslaughter range from a Class A to a Class E felony. Depending on the felony, the fines vary between $3,000 and $20,000. Prison sentences range from one to 30 years.

Vehicular homicide

Tennessee code defines vehicular homicide as the reckless killing of another person while driving a car, boat, plane or other vehicle. The driver's actions must have created substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury. Drag racing, excessive speeding and texting while driving count as vehicular homicide.

The death of another resulting from driving under the influence is a Class B felony, whereas other forms of vehicular homicide are a Class C felony. However, drivers with prior DUI convictions or vehicular assault charges may face an aggravated vehicular homicide charge, a Class A felony. The higher charge also applies to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20 percent or higher at the time of the incident.

Criminally negligent and reckless homicide

Tennessee purposefully loosely defines criminal negligence and reckless homicide charges to address the vast array of potentially criminal behaviors. Reckless homicide occurs when a person is aware of the risk of death or serious injury to another person, but continues to act resulting in the death of the other person.

In contrast, criminally negligent homicide happens when a person should be aware of a risk, but ignores or fails to appreciate the risk, ending in the death of another person. Reckless homicide is a Class D felony and criminally negligent homicide is a Class E felony.

Those charged with involuntary manslaughter are accused of a flagrant disregard for another person's life. The charges come with steep consequences in terms of prison time, fines and possible restitution. Convicted felons also face lifelong difficulties finding employment and housing. Those charged with any category of involuntary manslaughter should seek legal assistance for guidance on how to strategize a strong defense.

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