Defending Manslaughter and Reckless Homicide in Kentucky
Besides Murder, First and Second Degree Manslaughter and Reckless Homicide are Kentucky's Other Forms of Criminal Homicide
In Kentucky, in addition to the charge of murder, the state has three other crimes that involve criminal homicide - the unlawful taking of a life of another person. These forms of homicide are often seen as lesser included offenses of murder. That is, in a murder trial, if the evidence could support the jury finding the lesser offense of manslaughter 1st or 2nd degree or even reckless homicide, the court would instruct the jury that they could find the defendant guilty of one of these crimes.
- First Degree Manslaughter
- Second Degree Manslaughter
- Reckless Homicide
How Kentucky Defines First Degree Manslaughter
Under KRS § 507.030(1)(a), manslaughter 1st degree is defined as having the intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, and causing the death of that person, or that of another person. The key element for manslaughter in this context is the intent to cause serious physical injury.
For example, two men get in to a fight at a bar. One man throws a punch, which lands on the other's face, causing him to fall back and strike his head. The fall fractures his skull, which kills him. The man who threw the punch would be charged with manslaughter 1st degree.
Under KRS § 507.030(1)(b), manslaughter 1st degree is usually given as a lesser included offense to intentional murder.
Often this form of manslaughter is tied to murder, but under the circumstances when the defendant exhibits extreme emotional disturbance at the time of death. Under Kentucky law, extreme emotional disturbance was formally known as heat of passion.
For example, a man walks into his bedroom and finds his wife in bed with another man. In a fit of rage, he picks up a gun from the nightstand table and shoots and kills his wife. This would fit the category of extreme emotional disturbance.
First degree manslaughter is a Class B felony, which has a term of imprisonment not less than 10, but no more than 20 years. The court may impose a fine of not less than $1,000 no more than $10,000 or double defendant's gain, whichever is greater.
How Kentucky Defines Second Degree Manslaughter
A person is guilty of manslaughter 2nd degree when he wantonly causes the death of another person, including, but not limited to death resulting from operation of a motor vehicle.
A person can also be guilty of manslaughter 2nd degree by leaving a child under the age of eight years in a motor vehicle under circumstances that manifests extreme indifference to human life in which creates a grave risk of death to the child, and causes the child's death.
The penalty for second degree manslaughter is a Class C felony, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment not less than 5, but no more than 10 years. The court may impose a fine of not less than $1,000, but no more than $10,000 or double defendant's gain, whichever is greater.
How Kentucky Defines Reckless Homicide
In Kentucky, under KRS § 507.050, reckless homicide occurs when a defendant recklessly causes the death of another person. Recklessness is the key element involved in this crime. Someone acts recklessly when the person fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that should have been apparent.
Reckless homicide requires that the person's conduct grossly deviated from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe under the same circumstances. There is a fine line between reckless homicide and negligence.
Negligence is noncriminal conduct and only involves civil liability. Police can make the mistake of overcharging the driver, who caused a terrible car accident, with reckless homicide instead of citing him for a traffic violation.
Under reckless homicide, what types of conduct grossly deviates from the standard of care from that of a reasonable person? Some examples would be causing the death of another while driving carelessly and talking or texting on a cell phone, driving a truck and knowing the brakes were defective, and speeding through a residential neighborhood and hitting a child.
The penalty for reckless homicide is a Class D felony, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 1, but no more than 5 years. The court may impose a fine of not less than $1,000, but no more than $10,000.