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Indiana Reckless Homicide Laws

Indiana's reckless homicide laws punish those whose actions caused a substantial and unjustifiable risk to the lives of others that results in a death. Unlike a murder charge, which requires that the person intend that their actions result in another person's death, someone charged with reckless homicide typically did not intend to kill their victim. They simply created the unreasonable circumstance that resulted in their death.

Indiana Reckless Homicide Overview

Indiana reckless homicide law is different from the state's involuntary manslaughter laws, though there is some overlap. Indiana's involuntary manslaughter laws involve unintentional deaths that occur while the perpetrator is engaged in a crime that inherently creates a risk of serious bodily injury. A reckless homicide conviction does not require that the individual have engaged in any illegal act apart from the reckless behavior that resulted in death.

The Supreme Court case of Chicos v. Indiana addressed the overlap between reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter, including the ways that Indiana acknowledged the confusion between the crimes. In Chicos the Court held, in dicta, that "the acknowledgedly overlapping offenses of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide (which carries a lesser penalty) are treated more as one offense with different penalties than as a greater and an included offense. A final judgment of conviction of one bars prosecution for the other, and if there is a conviction for both offenses, a penalty can be imposed for only one."

In general, recklessness refers to actions where a person is aware of, but ignores, a substantial and unjustifiable risk of serious injury to another. The risk must be so great and apparent that to ignore it constitutes a major shift from the standard of care a normal person would exercise under the circumstances. Recklessness can also be established if it is shown that the person acted intentionally or knowingly. Recklessness is commonly charged for motor vehicle accidents, firearms incidents, and acts undertaken while a person is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

The following chart lists the prohibitions and penalties relating to reckless homicide laws in Indiana:


Indiana Code Section 35-42-1-5: Reckless Homicide

What is Prohibited?

A person who recklessly kills another human being commits reckless homicide, a Level 5 felony.


The sentencing range for Level 5 felonies in Indiana are 1-6 years incarceration and a fine up to $10,000.

Additionally, when a person is convicted of a reckless homicide resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, his or her driving privileges shall be suspended for 2-5 years, depending on the recommendation of the court.

Civil Case

A civil wrongful death lawsuit is possible. If you're served with papers about this, contact an experienced personal injury defense attorney for help.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Additional Resources

The following links provide additional resources to help learn about Indiana reckless homicide charges and related issues:

Charged with Reckless Homicide in Indiana? Get Legal Help

A reckless homicide charge arises when someone has acted without thinking ahead, with disastrous results. Don't make the same mistake twice. Contact a qualified criminal defense attorney in Indiana to discuss your case and start planning your defense.

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