From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Involuntary manslaughter, sometimes called criminally negligent homicide in the United States, gross negligence manslaughter in England and Wales or culpable homicide in Scotland, occurs where there's no intention to kill or cause serious injury, but death is due to recklessness or criminal negligence.
Recklessness, or willful blindness, is defined as a wanton disregard for the known dangers of a particular situation. An instance of this would be a defendant throwing a brick off a bridge, into vehicular traffic below. There exists no intent to kill; consequently, a resulting death wouldn't be considered murder. However, the conduct is probably reckless, sometimes used interchangeably with criminally negligent, which may subject the principal to prosecution for involuntary manslaughter: the individual was aware of the risk of injury to others and willfully disregarded it.
In many jurisdictions, such as in California, if the unintentional conduct amounts to such gross negligence as to amount to a willful or depraved indifference to human life, the mens rea may be considered to constitute malice. In such a case, the charged offense may be murder, often characterized as second degree murder.
Vehicular or intoxication manslaughter
Vehicular manslaughter is a kind of misdemeanor manslaughter, which holds persons liable for any death which occurs because of criminal negligence, or a violation of traffic safety laws. A common use of the vehicular manslaughter laws involves prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence (determined by excessive blood alcohol content levels set by individual states), although an independent infraction (such as driving with a suspended driver's license), or negligence, is usually also required.
In some U.S. states, such as Texas, intoxication manslaughter is a distinctly defined offense. A person commits intoxication manslaughter if he, or she, operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated and, by reason of that intoxication, causes the death of another by accident or mistake.
Intoxication manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and other similar offenses require a lesser mens rea than other manslaughter offenses. Furthermore, the fact that the defendant is entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance, is no defense. For example, in Texas, to prove intoxication manslaughter, it is not necessary to prove the person was negligent in causing the death of another, nor that they unlawfully used the substance that intoxicated them, but only that they were intoxicated, and operated a motor vehicle, and someone died as a result. The same rule of law applies in New York for vehicular manslaughter in the second degree.
In the United States, this is a lesser version of felony murder, and covers a person who causes the death of another while committing a misdemeanorTemplate:Ndash that is, a violation of law which doesn't rise to the level of a felony. This may automatically lead to a conviction for the homicide, if the misdemeanor involved a law designed to protect human life. Many violations of safety laws are infractions, which means a person can be convicted regardless of mens rea.
In some U.S. states, assisted suicide is punishable as a second degree of manslaughter.