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Negligent Homicide Defined

Negligent Homicide Defined

Negligent homicide is a serious criminal offense that occurs when an individual causes the death of another person due to their negligent behavior. In this article, we will explore the definition, elements, and examples of negligent homicide.

What is Negligent Homicide?

Negligent homicide refers to causing the death of another person due to negligent behavior. Negligent behavior is defined as an individual’s failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm or injury to another.

Elements of Negligent Homicide

To establish a case of negligent homicide, four elements must be present:

1. An act of negligence: The defendant must have acted negligently, meaning they breached their duty of care and failed to exercise reasonable care.

2. Resulting harm: The defendant’s negligence must have resulted in the death of another person.

3. Causation: The defendant’s negligence must have been the direct cause of the other person’s death.

4. Criminal intent: Negligent homicide is a criminal offense, meaning the prosecutor must prove that the defendant acted with criminal intent, such as recklessness or negligence.

Examples of Negligent Homicide

Examples of negligent homicide include situations where a driver causes a fatal car accident due to reckless driving, or a medical professional administers the wrong medication, causing the death of a patient. Negligent homicide can occur in any situation where negligence results in the death of another person.

Penalties for Negligent Homicide

The penalties for negligent homicide vary depending on the circumstances of the case, the jurisdiction, and the severity of the offense. In general, negligent homicide is considered a serious criminal offense, and penalties can include fines, probation, and incarceration.

Defenses Against Negligent Homicide

Defenses against a charge of negligent homicide may include arguing that the defendant’s behavior was not negligent or that the victim’s death was not caused by the defendant’s actions. The defendant may also argue that they were acting in self-defense or that they did not have criminal intent.


Negligent homicide is a serious criminal offense that occurs when an individual causes the death of another person due to their negligent behavior. Understanding the elements and examples of negligent homicide can help individuals navigate potential legal liability and take steps to prevent harm or injury to others. Employing proper care and seeking legal advice can help mitigate the risk of negligent behavior and protect individuals from potential legal liability.

How can Murder be Due to Negligence?

There are a number of ways the negligence of others can lead to the unlawful killing of another individual.  For instance, failure to follow adequate safety rules may lead to the death of employees.  Failure to follow rules and regulations when manufacturing consumer products may also violate common standards of conduct, leading to the death of others.

What are Types of Negligent Homicide?

Professional Negligence

Whenever the conduct of a professional while in the process or as a result of rendering services create circumstance that lead to the death of another individual, then that professional has committed negligent homicide.  A doctor, for example, may fail to follow standards of hygiene expected by society and his professional peers.  When this breech of professional conduct causes a deadly infection in a patient, it can be argued that the doctor’s negligence in providing sanitary conditions creates circumstances that lead to the patient’s death.  The doctor lacks malice and intent but is otherwise responsible due to his negligence.

Vehicular Negligence –

Recklessness in the operation of any motor vehicle from cars to boats and plane can result in the accidental death of others.  Even if the operator is not director involved in the physical act that kills the victim, he or she may have created dangerous circumstances that caused the accidental killing.  There are additional penalties and a high assumption of mens rea or “guilty mind” if the individual knowingly operated the motor vehicle with a suspended or expired license or failed to take adequate precautions.  For example, in New York State, the operator of a vehicle that kills a person while carrying over eighteen tons of hazardous materials can be changes with a class D felony.  The operator of a vehicle that kills an individual while driving with a suspended license will be charged with Vehicular manslaughter in the first degree, which is a class C felony.


Excessive intoxication may lead to an increase in reckless behavior, which in turn, can potentially create a hazardous situation for others.  These circumstances ultimately result in the unlawful killing of the victim, but there is a low assumption of mens rea as the accused frequently lacks the malice and intent to harm the victim.  The individual may be found negligent if his intoxicated state contributed to unsafe circumstances, as his recklessness is assumed to be atypical behavior and a deviation from the conduct of a “reasonable person.”

 How do Jurisdictions Normally Classify Negligent Murder?

Should the negligent actions of an individual result in the death of another, then most jurisdictions will find grounds from criminal liability.  Negligent homicide is typically classified as involuntary manslaughter, due to the implied lack of malice and intent.  Should the prosecutor or investigators discover malice and/or intent, then the mens rea of the accused will be upgraded from “negligent” to “knowingly” or “purposely” seeking the death of the victim.  As mentioned above, certain violations of other safety laws, such as failure to obtain proper permits or licenses will cause charges to be upgraded in severity.

Source: New York State Penal Code