National Legal Network of Lawyers

What is Negligent Homicide?

What is Negligent Homicide?

Negligent Homicide… Explained

A death caused by another person’s negligence arises to the level of a crime if the wrongful conduct greatly or grossly deviated from the duty of a person to exercise ordinary care. The act must also have been unintentional, or the wrongdoer did not intend to harm someone or to cause their death.

Negligent homicide is more than just negligence, which is a civil wrong and carries no criminal penalties. In negligence or tort law, an individual has a duty to exercise ordinary care toward other persons while engaging in an activity. Anyone who drives a motor vehicle has a duty to use ordinary caution and to look out for other people and motorists on the roadways. But deviating from the standard by going through a red light or stop sign, or following too closely, does not arise to the level of a homicide if fatality resulted.

Depending on the state, negligent homicide may also be referred to as manslaughter or criminal negligence.

You need a competent negligent homicide lawyer to represent you in these cases, which often involve complex issues of law and fact.

Elements of Negligent Homicide

  1. A failure to act or to act in such a way that significantly deviates from the exercise of ordinary care
  2. The failure to act or the wrongful conduct that led to a death
  3. The absence of malice

Examples of Negligent Homicide

Driving while under the influence: This includes alcohol, narcotics, or legal prescription drugs. The act of driving while under the influence greatly increases the risk of causing serious bodily injury or death, which the driver should know. It is not a matter of simply being inattentive, since the dangers of drunk driving or while being under the influence is well-known.

Nursing home or elder abuse: Many cases of negligent homicide include nursing home or elderly abuse in which a caretaker fails to care for their patient by not providing proper nutrition, medical care, or sanitary conditions. A caretaker’s inaction in administering medication or in summoning medical assistance when it is obviously needed and which omission substantially leads to the death of the patient is often charged as negligent homicide.

High Speed Chase: Someone eluding the police or racing on the freeway at very high speeds places every other motorist on the road at risk. A motor vehicle can be a deadly weapon if operated like this, so if a collision occurs and someone is killed, it is likely the motorist will be charged with negligent homicide or vehicular homicide.

Negligent Handling of a Dangerous Weapon: A person who negligently or carelessly handles a dangerous weapon, fireworks, or an explosive that leads to a death may also be charged with negligent homicide if there was no intent to harm anyone and the death was accidental.

Any of these scenarios can be presented in different ways. A negligent homicide lawyer can often present reasonable alternatives that present the facts more favorably to you.


Negligent homicide is a felony in any jurisdiction, but the penalties vary greatly. There are also degrees of any homicide offense and negligent homicide usually can be either categorized as a class A or class B felony, or crime in the first or second degree, or as an aggravated charge, depending on how the jurisdiction chooses to classify it.

Most states will charge the higher degree of felony if a motor vehicle was involved and you were under the influence. Prison sentences vary from a few years to 15 or more. It also depends on the severity of the conduct. If a caretaker repeatedly abused a patient over months, his or her negligent conduct could arise to a more severe felony offense. Otherwise, the penalties may range from a 2 or 3 years up to 7.

Retaining a negligent homicide attorney is essential since you face significant prison time if you are convicted. A negligent homicide lawyer can protect your constitutional rights, impeach the credibility of shaky witnesses, and force the prosecution to prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt on each element of the offense.

1-800-ATTORNEY® - Copyright © Lawyer Holdings, LLC
For licensing information: Contact us