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Manslaughter in Alabama Explained by Shelby County Criminal Lawyer

Posted by Erik Fine | Aug 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

 

Doctor Charged with Manslaughter in Alabama 

A Mobile County doctor has recently been charged with Manslaughter in a Speeding/DUI incident.  The doctor was driving excessively fast, in excess of 135 miles per hour when his car spun out of control, flipped, and killed his passenger.  The doctor was subsequently charged with the crime of Manslaughter.  See the story here:  Alabama Doctor Charged with Manslaughter in DUI/Speeding Accident , and here Doctor Charged with Manslaughter.   The doctor is now being sued civilly for damages by the passengers family for recklessly causing her death. It is alleged that the doctor was legally intoxicated at the time of the incident as well. Read more about the case here: Doctor Charged with Manslaughter Also Being Sued .

What is Manslaughter 

This begs the question, what is Manslaughter in Alabama, and why is the doctor being charged criminally for what some may believe is just an accident?  In Alabama, Manslaughter (13A-6-3) is a Class B felony.  A Class B felony in Alabama is punishable by two to twenty years in prison.  Under Alabama law, a person is guilty of manslaughter if they recklessly cause the death of another person.  In this instance, the Mobile doctor may be convicted by being legally intoxicated or simply due to the speed involved in the crash.  It is reckless behavior to be driving upon public highways at speeds exceeding 130 miles per hour.  It is also reckless to be driving a car under the influence of alcohol to such an extinct you can no longer operate a motor vehicle safely.  Either action by the doctor in this case could be considered reckless under the law and make him criminally liable for the passengers death.  The doctor could also face a vehicular homicide charge because of the DUI conduct. Alabama does not have a vehicular homicide law, but a fatal accident due to a driver's intoxication can be charged under the Alabama's Murder statute.  Thus, the doctor could be guilty of Criminally Negligent Homicide (13A-6-4) or reckless homicide, which is Manslaughter.  Typically, Criminally Negligent Homicide is a Class A misdemeanor, except in cases in which the criminally negligent homicide is caused by a driver of a vehicle or a vessel (boat) who is driving or operating the vehicle or vessel in violation of Alabama's DUI or BUI (Boating Under the Influence) laws.  In such cases, criminally negligent homicide is a Class C felony. 

What is Recklessness 

In order to understand why the doctor is facing Manslaughter charges, we must look into what the law defines as reckless conduct.  Reckless conduct in Alabama is defined as knowingly doing or failing to do something that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others. The risk must be of such a significant nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use under the circumstances.

So the difference between negligence and recklessness—and therefore between criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter—is whether the defendant was aware of the risk created by the conduct. Generally, a person who was aware of a risk, but disregarded the risk is guilty of manslaughter, whereas a person without such awareness is guilty of criminally negligent homicide. 

Driving 130 miles an hour, at night, even without drinking, creates a substantial risk to others of serious bodily injury or death.  The law will assume the doctor should have been aware that is conduct of driving this fast was a significant risk to others.  The doctor will likely be deemed to have recognized the risk and chose to ignore the risk of driving so fast upon a public highway.  

Possible Defenses in Alabama to Manslaughter 

The doctor's experienced criminal defense lawyers will try and argue that the doctor always drove fast, and that he was not aware of the risk.  Good luck with that!  They might also argue that alcohol was not a factor in the accident.  They may argue that the speed data recorder and calculation is unreliable and incorrect. They will need expert testimony to make this argument in court and to challenge the State's evidence of speed and cause of the accident.  Negating the intent to drive recklessly will be a viable defense object during the course of the trial.  

If you have been charged with a DUI, Manslaughter, or any other crime in Alabama, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today.  Your life and liberty are precious, and I will fight for your legal rights throughout the process.  Every minute counts!  Don't waste time. Contact us today. 

 

 
 

About the Author

Erik Fine

Attorney Erik D. Fine, A.A., B.S., J.D. Mr. Fine, an Alabama native, is a graduate of Mountain Brook Public Schools. He received an athletic scholarship to play baseball at Kansas City Kansas Community College from which he graduated with an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement in 1989. It was i...

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