In Wisconsin, negligent homicide means that the government believes you have caused the death of another person through criminally negligent behavior. The definition of the criminally negligent behavior under Wisconsin law has three parts: (1) that you acted in a manner that created a risk of death or great bodily harm to another person; (2) that the risk you created was unreasonable and substantial; and (3) that you should have been aware of that risk.
There are several different types of negligent homicides with varying, corresponding penalties. For example, Homicide by Negligent Handling of a Dangerous Weapon is a Class G Felony, which means that if you are convicted you could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a $25,000.00 fine. Another example is Homicide By Negligent Operation of A Motor Vehicle, which is also a Class G Felony with the same potential consequences if convicted. A third example is Homicide By Negligent Operation of A Motor Vehicle, Causing Death To An Unborn Child, which is also a Class G Felony with the same possible penalties if convicted.
Similar to other forms of negligent homicide, but defined separately are: Homicide By Intoxicated Use of A Motor Vehicle; and Homicide By Intoxicated Use of A Firearm. Homicide By Intoxicated Use of A Motor Vehicle is a Class D Felony that carries a maximum penalty of 25 years prison and/or a $100,000.00 fine, though it can be a Class C Felony with a maximum prison sentence of 40 years and the same fine amount if convicted. Homicide By Intoxicated Use of A Firearm is a Class D Felony with a maximum sentence of up to 25 years prison and/or a $100,000.00 fine if convicted.
To convict you of Homicide By Negligent Use of A Dangerous Weapon, the State must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) you handled a dangerous weapon, or an instrument that is either designed to cause death or great bodily harm, or is capable of causing the same level of harm to another based on the manner in which it was used (example: a gun, knife, or even a thick cord used to strangle another person); (2) that you operated or handled the dangerous weapon in a manner that is criminally negligent (refer to the definition of criminal negligence above), and (3) that your operation or handling of the dangerous weapon caused the death of another person, meaning that it was a substantial factor in causing that person’s death. Homicide By Negligent Operation of A Motor Vehicle requires the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt three elements: (1) that you operated a vehicle; (2) that you did so in a manner that constituted criminal negligence (refer to definition of criminal negligence above), and (3) that your act/s of criminal negligence caused the death of another person (meaning the act/acts were a substantial factor in causing the person’s death). Similarly, you can be convicted of Homicide By Negligent Use of A Motor Vehicle if the State proves beyond a reasonable doubt the same exact elements except that your criminally negligent act/s caused the death of an unborn child.
To convict you of the charge of Homicide By Intoxicated Use of A Vehicle, the State must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) that you operated a vehicle; (2) that your operation of that vehicle caused the death of another person; and (3) you were under the influence of an intoxicant at the time you operated the vehicle, meaning that you either had an amount of alcohol or drugs in your system at the time of the incident that was at or above the legal limit, or you had enough alcohol in your system that you were less able to exercise the clear judgment and steady hand necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle. Similarly, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt three elements to convict you of the offense of Homicide By Negligent Handling of A Firearm: (1) that you handled a firearm; (2) that your handling of that firearm caused the death of another person (meaning your actions were a substantial factor in causing the death); and (3) that you were under the influence of an intoxicant at the time you handled a firearm, meaning that you drank enough alcohol that you were less able to exercise the clear judgment and steady hand necessary to handle a firearm.
There are many potential defenses that you could use to successfully defend yourself against these types of charges. As an example, in a case alleging Homicide By Negligent Use of A Firearm, you may have an affirmative defense that your conduct was lawfully privileged by an act of self-defense, or that it was an accident depending on the facts of the case.State v. Watkins, 2002 WI 101, ¶¶ 41, 45, 58; 255 Wis. 2d 265, 285, 647 N.W.2d 244, 253 (“[a]ccident is a defense that negatives intent, and may negative lesser mental elements.” Accordingly, “pointing a gun at another person as a threat of force does not necessarily preclude the possibility of asserting the accident defense so long as the person reasonably believes that such a threat of force is necessary to prevent or terminate what he or she reasonably believes to be an unlawful interference”). As another example, a defense to Negligent Homicide By Use of A Motor Vehicle may be that you did not cause the death of another. Some fatal automobile accidents are unavoidable regardless of the driver’s actions. Our firm works with leading experts in the use of firearms, and automobile reconstruction experts to carefully examine the facts of each case to evaluate each possible defense. Each defense depends on the specific facts of your case. Please contact our offices to schedule a consultation with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case in detail.