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North Carolina Involuntary Manslaughter Laws

Anyone’s death is tragedy and everyone knows killing someone in cold blood is wrong. But what if someone’s death is the result of an accident or carelessness? Does that still qualify as murder? And if not, could it still result in a criminal conviction? What would the possible penalties be for an accidental death? The following article is a quick summary of what is known as involuntary manslaughter law in North Carolina.

Involuntary Manslaughter in General

The crime of involuntary manslaughter is commonly defined as the unintentional killing of another person resulting from recklessness or criminal negligence. Some states charge drunk drivers with involuntary manslaughter if they cause a fatal accident, but North Carolina has a separate vehicular manslaughter charge for such offenses. As in other states, defenses to North Carolina involuntary manslaughter laws include self-defense, accidental death, and actual innocence.

North Carolina Involuntary Manslaughter Statutes

Learn more about North Carolina's involuntary manslaughter laws below.

Code Section

North Carolina General Statutes § 14-18

Elements of the Crime

A person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter if he or she:

(1) kills

(2) another living human being

(3) by an unlawful act that does not amount to a felony and is not ordinarily dangerous to life, or by a culpably negligent act or omission.

Classifications / Penalties

Class F felony; 13-16 months in prison


Self-defense; death was an accident (without negligence or recklessness); actual innocence

Some common defenses to involuntary manslaughter are self-defense and genuine accident. While some deadly accidents occur because someone acted irresponsibly or recklessly, others can be blameless where the person did not act negligently. The penalties for involuntary manslaughter can be severe. Both state and federal law treat it as a felony, usually carrying a jail or prison sentence of at least one year.

Manslaughter Civil Penalties

Even if a person is charged with involuntary manslaughter in criminal court and is acquitted, the deceased’s family may file a wrongful death claim in civil court. Most wrongful death lawsuits follow in the wake of criminal trials, using similar evidence but with a lower standard of proof. Regardless, someone found liable for wrongful death may or may not be convicted of a crime associated with that death.

North Carolina Involuntary Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources

Criminal charges can be frightening and could result in severe penalties. You may wish to contact a North Carolina criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with involuntary manslaughter or a similar crime. You can visit FindLaw’s sections on Involuntary Manslaughter DefinitionsInvoluntary Manslaughter Penalties and Sentences, and Voluntary Manslaughter For more general information on this topic.

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