Ohio residents face involuntary manslaughter charges when they are accused of unintentionally taking the life of another person or an unborn child while attempting to commit another crime. If prosecutors study the facts of the case and determine that the suspect acted with malice and intended to kill their alleged victim, they would file murder charges instead of involuntary manslaughter charges. This is why involuntary manslaughter is referred to as criminally negligent homicide in many parts of the country.
Misdemeanors and felonies
The Ohio Criminal Code separates offenses into two categories. Misdemeanors are minor crimes. Felonies are more serious offenses that carry longer prison sentences. Involuntary manslaughter is always a felony in Ohio, but the severity of the charge is determined by the type of crime the defendant was trying to commit. If they were trying to commit a misdemeanor when another person or unborn child was killed, they are charged with a third-degree felony. If a life is lost during the commission of a felony, the alleged offender will face a first-degree felony charge. During plea negotiations with criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors may offer to reduce involuntary manslaughter charges to avoid arguing the case in court.
Involuntary manslaughter penalties in Ohio
The penalties for involuntary manslaughter are harsh in Ohio. Defendants convicted on a third-degree felony count face up to five years in prison. When involuntary manslaughter is charged as a first-degree felony, the maximum custodial sentence is 11 years. If the underlying crime in an involuntary manslaughter case is driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a custodial sentence and a lifetime driving ban are mandatory. An individual convicted of involuntary manslaughter could also face a wrongful death lawsuit filed in civil court by the victim’s family.
Plea agreements and trials
Most people accused of committing involuntary manslaughter in Ohio choose to plead guilty in return for more lenient treatment. This makes sense when the facts are clear and a conviction seems extremely likely, but it could be a mistake if the prosecutor’s case is weak and proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt will be difficult.