Involuntary manslaughter means causing another person’s death through illegal, reckless or grossly negligent actions. Unlike murder, the prosecution does not have to prove that the defendant specifically intended for the victim to die.
Because the perpetrator did not mean to cause the death, Tennessee punishes involuntary manslaughter at generally lower sentences than murder crimes. But the penalties are still severe and largely controlled by sentencing guidelines laid out in the law.
Five types of involuntary homicide
There are five categories of involuntary homicide:
- Vehicular homicide, such as getting into a fatal car accident while impaired by alcohol. (Class B or C felony)
- Aggravated vehicular homicide, which is committing vehicular homicide while having certain previous crimes on your record, or while having a blood-alcohol content of .20 percent or higher. (Class A felony)
- Reckless homicide, or involuntary homicide not involving a vehicle. (Class D felony)
- Criminally negligent conduct that causes death (Class E felony)
Class A felonies are the most serious. They carry a prison sentence of 15-60 years and a maximum fine of $50,000. For Class B, the punishment ranges from eight to 30 years, with a fine of up to $25,000. Class C felonies carry a prison term of three to 15 years and a fine of no more than $10,000, while a Class D felony means a sentence of two to 12 years in prison and a max fine of $5,000. Finally, a Class E felony gets you one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.
Don’t give up
First-degree murder is the only crime in Tennessee that carries the possibility of the death penalty. But a conviction for involuntary manslaughter will put you in prison, probably for years. However, getting charged does not mean you will be automatically found guilty. There may be weaknesses in the prosecution’s case that can be exploited and used as leverage to secure a not guilty plea or get the charge dismissed.