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Kentucky Involuntary Manslaughter Law

Manslaughter is a type of criminal homicide (or a crime where one person is illegally killed by another). In Kentucky, there are four types of criminal homicide: murder, first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, and reckless homicide. In all four of these crimes the offender illegally takes the life of another, but society views killing in some circumstances to be more offensive than in others so these degrees of criminal homicide have been developed.

This article focuses on Kentucky's second-degree manslaughter law (referred to as involuntary manslaughter in many other states), but before outlining the specifics of this crime it's important to understand where on the spectrum of criminal homicides manslaughter falls. Here is a brief outline of how homicide crimes are generally defined in descending order of severity:

  • Murder: The unlawful killing of another with malice under circumstances defined by each state.
  • Manslaughter: The unlawful killing of another without malice.
    • Voluntary manslaughter: An intentional killing where the killer didn't previously intend to kill the victim. An example would be a heat of passion killing.
    • Involuntary manslaughter: An unintentional killing that results from criminal negligence.

Involuntary Manslaughter in Kentucky

The following chart highlights Kentucky's second-degree manslaughter (or involuntary manslaughter) law.

Code Section

Kentucky Revised Statutes section 507.040: Second-Degree Manslaughter (or Involuntary Manslaughter)

What's Prohibited?

Wantonly (or unjustifiably) causing the death of another person.

Examples of Second-Degree Manslaughter

  • Death resulting from how the offender drove his car
  • If a child under eight years old dies after being left in a car under circumstances that manifest an extreme indifference to human life and that creates a serious risk of death to the child


Class C felony, punishable by imprisonment for between five and ten years.

Reckless Homicide

A separate but closely related offense to involuntary manslaughter in Kentucky is reckless homicide. In Kentucky, reckless homicide is when an offender recklessly causes the death of another person. Generally, criminal recklessness occurs when a person acts with outright disregard for the safety of others and should have known that his actions might harm someone else. For example, drag racing in a residential neighborhood and accidentally killing a spectator when your car swerves out of control and hits them would likely constitute reckless homicide. Reckless homicide is a Class D felony, and is punishable by between one and five years in prison.

Getting Legal Help

If you have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Kentucky contact a local criminal defense attorneyfor case specific information.

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