Homicide is defined as the act of one person killing another. Not all homicide is murder, however. Homicide may be excusable, as in war, or justifiable, as in self-defense. Homicide may also be accidental, in which a person has no intent to claim a life, but causes another’s death by actions considered to be criminally negligent or reckless.

Even though manslaughter is unintentional, the penalties are stiff, including minimum prison sentences and the possibility of decades in prison.

If you are accused of manslaughter, securing legal defense representation is critical for protecting your rights and fighting for your innocence. Call Coventon Criminal Defense to speak with an Oklahoma manslaughter lawyer about your case.

Oklahoma Manslaughter Laws

In Oklahoma, acts of criminal homicide, whether premeditated or unintentional, are classified by degrees. Murder is classified as first degree murder or second degree murder. Manslaughter is likewise classified in the first degree or second degree.

Whether a person is charged with murder, first degree manslaughter, or second degree murder depends upon the specific details of the incident.

First Degree Manslaughter

State law defines first degree manslaughter in 21 O.S. § 711. Under this statute, an act of homicide is considered to be manslaughter in the first degree when it occurs under one of the following circumstances:

  • When a death occurs during the commission of a misdemeanor.
  • When a person unintentionally kills in a another “in the heat of passion,” either in a “cruel or unusual manner” or by using a dangerous weapon (excluding justifiable homicide in self-defense)
  • When a person uses unnecessary lethal force in an attempt to resist a crime or after the attempt to commit a crime has failed.
  • When a physician is intoxicated and commits an act resulting in the death of a patient, including administering the wrong medication or dose.

In the first scenario, one of the most common causes of first degree manslaughter charges is a fatal DUI accident. A first offense of DUI in Oklahoma is a misdemeanor. If the person’s first DUI arrest comes as a result of a fatal DUI accident, the impaired driver will face first degree manslaughter charges for each person killed in the accident. It is important to note, however, that a vehicular homicide for DUI is only charged as manslaughter for a first DUI offense. Second and subsequent DUI offenses are felonies, and a fatal DUI accident after a prior conviction for DUI would land the impaired driver with a second degree murder charge.

The second scenario would include an act which temporarily enrages or otherwise emotionally distressed the perpetrator to such a degree that he or she is not acting rationally. In these cases, the person acting in a “heat of passion” is acting impulsively, and although he or she does not intend to kill the another person, the defendant is not thinking of the possible consequences of his or her actions.

In the third scenario, a person is charged with first degree manslaughter after using an unnecessary measure of force in resisting another’s attempt to commit a crime. In Oklahoma, both the Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground laws apply to self-defense. However, lethal force is deemed inappropriate for the defense of property or to resist a crime that would not injure or kill the victim. The degree of force used to resist a crime must be commensurate with the degree of force used to commit the crime.

First degree manslaughter is a felony. The minimum penalty is a prison term of 4 years. Furthermore, first degree manslaughter is an 85 Percent Crime, which requires the person convicted to serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Second Degree Manslaughter

Manslaughter in the second degree, defined in 21 O.S. § 716, is a “catch-all” offense that covers any act of homicide that does not meet the definitions for excusable or justifiable homicide, first or second degree murder, or first degree manslaughter.

Section 717 provides an example of an act which may be charged as second degree manslaughter. Under this statute, anyone who allows a “mischievous animal” to roam free or who does not adequately restrain the animal is criminally liable if that animal attacks and kills someone. If the owner knows of the animal’s propensity for violence or viciousness, and that animal fatally mauls a person, the animal owner is charged with second degree manslaughter.

Second degree manslaughter is likewise a felony. It is punishable by 2 to 4 years in prison.

Oklahoma Criminal Lawyer: Manslaughter Defense

If you are accused of involvement in an incident that resulted in someone’s death, act quickly to find a manslaughter defense attorney who can effectively handle your case. Call Coventon Criminal Defense at (405) 417-3842 to schedule a risk-free, confidential case review.