Under the laws of Georgia and the United States, there is a distinction between murder and manslaughter. In cases of murder, the defendant acted deliberately, with malice aforethought or during the commission of a felony. The distinction between murder and manslaughter, then, often comes down to intent. A charge of manslaughter means that the defendant either did not intend to harm or kill another person (involuntary manslaughter) or had intent but acted out of irresistible passion (voluntary manslaughter).
Further still, involuntary manslaughter can be divided into two subcategories: felony involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.
- Felony Involuntary Manslaughter carries a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 10.
- Misdemeanor Involuntary Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 12 months and $1,000 in fines and charges.
What Defines Felony vs. Misdemeanor Homicide?
The distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor charge in involuntary manslaughter can be found in GA Code § 16-5-3 and it ultimately comes down to the act that caused the incident. The code separates its legal definition into two parts:
- A person commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony. A person who commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of an unlawful act, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than ten years.
- A person commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so, by the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm. A person who commits the offense of involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as a misdemeanor.
Felony Involuntary Manslaughter occurs when the defendant commits a minor, unlawful act, such as the misdemeanor offense of reckless conduct, and that offense unintentionally results in someone’s death.
It should be noted that even an unintentional homicide caused during the commission of a felony, is not involuntary manslaughter, but rather, the much more serious offense of felony murder. Felony murder carries the same penalties as malice murder: death, life without parole or life with parole.
Misdemeanor Involuntary Manslaughter occurs when the defendant commits a lawful act in an unlawful manner. This is what we call “criminal negligence,” or an act that is not in and of itself illegal, but which is done in such a negligent manner as to rise to be criminal.
For example, it is not illegal to shoot a gun, but a hunter carelessly firing at a noise or rustling branche without verifying that he is indeed shooting at his intended animal is criminally negligent. If it was a person making the noise or rustling the branches, and he was killed, the hunter would be guilty of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.
What Penalties Exist for Felony Involuntary Manslaughter Beyond Sentencing?
As mentioned, the sentencing guidelines for this type of charge call for a prison sentence of up to 10 years in length. But the fact that a defendant has been charged with involuntary manslaughter means that they can expect to carry that charge on their criminal record for life.
It is possible to petition the court for a record restriction, which would keep the conviction out of the public record where it can impact their ability to secure a loan, gain employment, find a home or retain custody of their children. However, this conviction would still be visible to those in law enforcement and the government. Moreover, a felony conviction can impact a defendant’s civil liberties and benefits for the rest of their life, including:
- Voting Rights
- Right to Hold Public Office
- Right to Receive Public Benefits
- Second Amendment Rights
- It can also make it difficult to travel abroad, as other countries may bar known felons from entry.
How Can Busbee Law Group Help?
Simply put, by doing more than anyone else. Our team works as one, meaning defendants benefit from the combined expertise of our entire legal staff, not just their attorney. We keep our caseloads light so that our team can put their absolute utmost effort into each and every case, tracking down evidence, finding witnesses, and building a rock-solid defense.
That intense preparation puts us on a much better footing in the courtroom, with a depth of preparation and knowledge that the prosecution can’t match. As a result, we see success time and time again in securing our clients’ freedom.
And your freedom is worth the time and energy it takes to look into each and every detail of your case until we’ve exhausted every avenue. You are important, and your case is important. You’ve been charged, but that does not mean that you will be found guilty. There are ways to challenge charges and potentially have them reduced or entirely dismissed
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