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Pennsylvania Involuntary Manslaughter Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Involuntary Manslaughter Laws

Involuntary manslaughter, unlike other homicide charges set by Pennsylvania law, does not require an intent to kill. Rather than rely on the defendant's intent, the charge of involuntary manslaughter penalizes unintentional killings. By pursuing involuntary manslaughter, the state seeks to prevent and punish activities that happen with disregard for human life.

To prove involuntary manslaughter, a prosecutor must show that the defendant caused the victim's death by reckless or grossly negligent conduct while engaging a lawful or unlawful activity. A lawful act such as driving a car may be the basis for involuntary manslaughter if the defendant drove recklessly. The prosecutor must show a causal link between the defendant's reckless or negligent conduct and the victim's death. If the chain of events leading to the homicide does not trace back directly or substantially to the defendant, the state may have difficult time with proving involuntary manslaughter.

A prosecutor can establish gross negligence or recklessness by comparing the defendant's actions with an established standard of care that a reasonable person would follow. The prosecutor might also look at whether the defendant purposefully ignored a known danger or continued an activity even when significant risks became obvious.

Below you will find more specific information about Pennsylvania's involuntary manslaughter laws.

Code Section

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. section 2504

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. section 1104

  Defenses to Involuntary Manslaughter Charges
  • Lack of causation between the defendant's actions and the victim's death
  • Accidental killing while engaging in lawful activity without criminal intent or negligence

Note: In Pennsylvania, a defendant generally cannot use voluntary intoxication as a defense to involuntary manslaughter.


Involuntary manslaughter is a first degree misdemeanor under the laws of Pennsylvania. The potential punishment for a first degree misdemeanor is a term of imprisonment for up to five years.

If the defendant committed involuntary manslaughter as the parent, caregiver, or custodian of a child under the age of 12, state law increases the criminal charge to a second degree felony. If convict

Specific actions that can be related to involuntary manslaughter

  • Driving recklessly,
  • Driving while intoxicated,
  • Speeding, and other driving violations
  • Child neglect and abuse
  • Improperly withholding medical care or treatment from a person who dies, the state might open an involuntary manslaughter case.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Criminal Laws Related Resources:

Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter? Protect Yourself With the Help of an Attorney

Involuntary manslaughter can be a difficult crime for everyone involved -- especially if the victim lost their life as a result of a simple driving violation such as speeding or texting while driving. Depending on the evidence, you could be facing significant penalties. A skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney will be able to advocate on your behalf and provide the best outcome possible.

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