Is Manslaughter the Same as Accidental Killing?

Brad Bailey Law

Many people confuse manslaughter with accidental killing. They imagine something like a car accident resulting in death and consider it an accidental death. While some manslaughter cases are accidental, accidental killing and manslaughter are very two different things.  


There are two kinds of manslaughter: Voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter means someone committed a crime, usually a felony, that caused an injury resulting in death. Because voluntary manslaughter and second-degree murder have different punishments, some defendants admit to the killing as a means of avoiding the second-degree murder charge.

Involuntary manslaughter means someone was unintentionally killed because of another person’s recklessness. For example, if a drunk driver kills someone, they will likely face involuntary manslaughter charges. When prosecutors attempt to prove involuntary manslaughter, they must demonstrate that a reasonable person would know that the act was harmful or could cause death.

Accidental Killing

An accidental killing is precisely that. It is a case where someone performs an act they believe is reasonably safe or is made in the defense of another, and it results in someone’s death.

For example, in early February 2020, a Massachusetts man accidentally killed his neighbor with a crossbow while attempting to save someone from a dog attack. The crossbow bolt went through the dog and continued traveling through a closed-door where it delivered a fatal blow. This would be considered accidental because the bolt passing through the dog, the closed door, and killing someone on the other side was not a reasonable expectation, especially in a high-stress life-or-death situation.

While accidental killings often do not result in criminal charges, though anyone under investigation for accidental homicide should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

If you’re facing criminal charges, you may want legal representation. If you’d like to go over your case with an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney from Brad Bailey Law to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (617) 500-0252.

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