Under South Carolina law, manslaughter involves the unlawful killing of another human being without "malice aforethought" or intent. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the unlawful killing of another human being is due to to the criminal negligence of the defendant.
Criminal Negligence: Statutory Definition
South Carolina's Criminal Code defines criminal negligence as acting with a "reckless disregard for the safety of others." Moreover, the code states that a conviction for involuntary manslaughter can occur only after a finding, by a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant acted with criminal negligence as defined by the law.
Read More: What Is Criminal Negligence?
Reckless: Common Law Definition
South Carolina's case law supplements the statutory definition of criminal negligence by further defining "reckless disregard for the safety of others" to mean: conduct that has an unreasonable and high likelihood of causing death or serious harm to another; the actor is aware that his actions are unreasonable and likely to cause death or serious harm to another; and the continues to act in the risky manner.
Extreme Reckless Behavior
Acting with extreme recklessness is a common example of behavior that will likely lead to a involuntary manslaughter conviction. For example, knowing that firing a gun into the air or at a building may injure or kill someone but doing it anyway may result in a conviction for involuntary manslaughter if your action actual result in the death of another.
A conviction for involuntary manslaughter is also possible by failing to act in the proper manner. For instance, a doctor who fails to check whether a patient is allergic to a medicine but uses it anyway and the patient dies may be guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Involuntary manslaughter is considered the least serious type of homicide in South Carolina. Still, a conviction for involuntary homicide is considered a Class F felony. Under the law, a Class F felony carries a potential sentence of up to five years in a state penitentiary and/or fines and probation upon release.
Marcello Viridis has been "working in writing" for the past six years. Since publishing his first article in 2004, he has written on a range topics from working and living overseas for the Wall Street Journal's Black Collegian website to legal essays for the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties. Viridis has a B.A. from Pomona College and a J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School.