Can bullying lead to an involuntary manslaughter charge?
4 months ago by Justin M. Schiks
In 2014, Minnesota amended its bullying laws to require schools to have stricter policies to protect children from intimidating or harmful behavior. While these laws require schools to take action to prevent bullying and cyberbullying, or to remedy an existing harmful situation, the law does not set out criminal penalties for the act of “bullying” itself.
The law defines bullying as “intimidating, threatening, abusive, or harming conduct,” which can range from offensive words to physical violence against others.
Many people may engage in cyberbullying, which they may think is less serious since they are not attacking someone in person. However, bullying happens, and it can cause serious injuries and even death.
When a bully is accused of causing death, can they face involuntary manslaughter charges in Minnesota?
Manslaughter in the Second Degree
Under Minnesota law, involuntary manslaughter is called “manslaughter in the second degree.” This offense involves causing the death of another person by acting with criminal negligence that creates an unreasonable risk to others, and the offender takes the chance with their conduct of causing great bodily harm or death.
(Note: there are other acts that can lead to this charge that do not apply to the bullying conversation.) A person who commits involuntary manslaughter does not intentionally kill someone, though they should know that their behavior is likely to end someone’s life. This crime is a felony and convicted offenders face up to 10 years in state prison and a $20,000 fine, among other penalties.
Manslaughter Charges for Bullying
There are two distinct ways that bullies in today’s society cause the death of a bullying victim:
- They act with physical violence against a victim and cause fatal injuries
- They harass, stalk, or humiliate victims to a degree that leads to suicide
First, if a bully physically kills someone, they may be charged with different degrees of homicide charges depending on the circumstances. In some cases, the bully may never intend to cause death, though they act in a manner that is dangerous enough to kill someone. In this case, involuntary manslaughter charges may result.
The second situation is a more difficult – and hotly debated – one, as it does not involve a physical act that leads to death. Earlier in 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld a manslaughter conviction of a then 17-year-old who urged her boyfriend to kill himself via text message, which he did.
The court found that because she knew he was depressed with suicidal tendencies, her bullying texts pushing him to commit suicide constituted reckless behavior with a disregard for human life.
The ACLU and other civil liberties advocates claimed the conviction was a violation of her free speech and that saying words should not justify manslaughter charges. Many states will be weighing in on this issue in the near future.
What Exactly Is Involuntary Manslaughter?
Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional death of an individual due to another person’s negligent actions. This means you can kill someone without realizing that your actions caused death. The word unintentional is very important when it comes to the definition of involuntary manslaughter, as it means that the individual did not mean to kill another person.
Different Examples of Involuntary Manslaughter
Various examples can be used to explain involuntary manslaughter. The first one is when someone is robbing another person, and the person being robbed falls down a flight of stairs and dies. This is considered involuntary manslaughter because the person did not intend to kill the individual they were robbing.
Another example is when an individual punches another person and dies due to the punch. The individual who threw the punch did not mean to kill the other person, but they did kill the person with the force of their punch. Therefore, it is considered involuntary manslaughter. Several years ago, a case like this happened where a soccer player punched a referee and killed him unintentionally.
Why Should You Hire a Woodbury, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If you or someone you know are facing an involuntary manslaughter charge in Minnesota, you may be overwhelmed and not know what to do. Our experienced lawyers at JS Defense know that this is a very stressful and frustrating experience for anyone.
When someone has accused you of this charge, we understand that it is common to worry about your future and the potential of being convicted. You should hire a Minnesota involuntary manslaughter attorney to represent you as they are fluent in the laws surrounding these cases.
These cases can become very difficult, but a skilled lawyer knows how to ensure that their client does not get charged or ends up with a lesser charge. Working with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney will help you secure a much better outcome as they will analyze all the evidence and prepare to stand up for you and your rights in court.
Involuntary manslaughter lawyers will explain every detail of your case as it proceeds and ensure that you understand your legal options at all times. We stand behind people who have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and will ensure that our client is treated fairly by being given a chance to prove their side of the story.
What Must Be Proven in an Involuntary Manslaughter Case?
A prosecutor must be able to show proof of certain elements when it comes to involuntary manslaughter. Reasonable doubt is not enough to win these cases. Therefore, if the prosecutor cannot prove every single element, the defendant will not be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The following are each of the elements that must be proven:
- The victim’s death occurred because of the defendant’s actions
- The defendant’s actions were negligent, reckless, or careless regarding the individual’s life, or they were a potential risk of danger.
- The defendant knew that their actions could lead to the other individual’s death.
If one of these elements cannot be fully proven successfully, the defendant will be considered innocent. You should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing involuntary manslaughter charges. Do not try to represent yourself, as you do not know the ins and outs of the law and can wind up hurting your chances of having the charges reduced or dismissed.
How is Involuntary Manslaughter Different Than Murder?
The main way you can tell involuntary manslaughter is different from murder is by looking at the defendant’s intent. When an individual faces an involuntary manslaughter charge, the killing is unintentional. However, when a murder charge occurs, the individual knew exactly what they were going to do and intended to kill the individual.
Our Firm Will Protect Your Rights
A Minnesota involuntary manslaughter lawyer is always willing and ready to guide you through facing an involuntary manslaughter charge. We understand that every case is unique, so we take the time to listen to our client’s stories and learn the specifics of their cases. Depending on what exactly happened and how you got involved in this case, there may be different ways that we approach your case. The following are a few different options that we may have when it comes to your case.
Representing You at a Trial
Not every case makes it to a trial, but we are prepared for those that do. We will protect your rights and ensure that the law is followed. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to ensure that the outcome you desire is reached and that your side of the story is presented to the jury.
Helping You Reach a Plea Deal
There may be a plea agreement in which you may plead guilty to a lesser charge. This will only be mentioned if we believe a lighter sentence is the best way.
Getting the Charges Dismissed
Our team works very hard to find strong evidence. As a result, our cases often get dismissed because we can discredit the prosecution’s case against our clients.
Getting a Reduction in charges
If your charges are a felony, we may ask them to be reduced to a misdemeanor. If this is successful, you will end up with a lighter sentence. Talk to a criminal defense lawyer today.
Contact a Woodbury Violent Crimes Attorney as Soon as Possible After an Arrest
If you are arrested for manslaughter in the Woodbury area, your very first step should be to call a violent crimes lawyer at JS Defense, PA. Call (651) 968-9652 or contact us online to discuss how we can help with your defense.
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