Can bullying lead to an involuntary manslaughter charge?
4 years 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, 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 more difficult – and hotly debated – one, as it does not involve a physical act that leads to death. Earlier this year, 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 coming months and years.
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.
For more information please visit our site.