Have You Been Charged With Manslaughter In Kentucky?

At Mashni Law Criminal Defense, we recognize the intense emotional and legal turmoil involved when facing a manslaughter charge in Kentucky. This serious accusation implicates an individual in the unlawful killing of another without premeditation, distinguishing it from other forms of homicide through its circumstances and potential defenses. The consequences of a conviction are profound, not only in terms of imprisonment and legal penalties but also in the lasting emotional and reputational damage it can inflict. Our Kentucky criminal defense firm brings to the table a profound understanding of the legal system, coupled with a nuanced approach to criminal defense, ensuring that your case is handled with the dedication and vigor it demands. We are relentless in our pursuit of justice, exploring every legal avenue and defense strategy to protect your rights and secure a favorable outcome.

Facing the gravity of a manslaughter accusation requires trial-tested legal intervention. Call our office or schedule a free case evaluation today, and allow Mashni Law Criminal Defense to stand beside you every step of the way, fighting for your future and your freedom

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Manslaughter in the first degree is defined in Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 507.030. manslaughter in the second degree is defined in KRS §

Manslaughter occurs in any of three ways. Mostly simply, a person has committed manslaughter when he causes the death of another person but did not possess intent to kill, instead possessing intent to cause serious physical injury. Manslaughter is also committed when a person abuses or allows another person to abuse a person 12 years old or younger, who is physically or mentally helpless, and who is in the actual custody of the defendant.
There are two degrees of manslaughter. Murder can be reduced to manslaughter in the first degree when all of the requirements for murder have been met, but the defendant acted under the influence of an extreme emotion disturbance. First degree manslaughter can be reduced to second degree manslaughter when, instead of acting with intent to cause serious injury, the defendant instead acted wantonly in causing the death of another. There are a variety of situations in which a person can act wantonly within the context of second-degree manslaughter, but three are enumerated within the statute: operating a motor vehicle; leaving a child under the age of eight in a car under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life and which create a grave risk of death to the child, thereby causing the death of the child; or distribution of a Schedule I or II substance which caused the death another.


Reckless Homicide
Vehicular Homicide


The elements of manslaughter are the similar to the elements of murder in that that a person must have died, and the death of that person must have been caused by the actions of the defendant. There are different mental states, or intent, elements in manslaughter. For first degree manslaughter, the Commonwealth must prove that the defendant acted with either intent to cause serious physical injury, with intent to cause death while under the influence of extreme emotion disturbance, or with intent to abuse a person twelve and under or knowingly allowing a person to do so.


Extreme emotional disturbance is defined in subsection (1)(a) of KRS 507.020, the murder statute. Under this definition, extreme emotional disturbance must have a reasonable explanation or excuse. The reasonableness of the explanation or excuse is to be determined from the viewpoint of a person in the defendant’s situation under the circumstances as the defendant believed them to be.


Manslaughter in the first degree is a Class B felony, placing the penalty between 10- and 20-years’ incarceration. Manslaughter in the second degree is a Class C felony, placing the penalty between five and ten years.


Manslaughter is a type of homicide. Homicide simply means the killing of a person. Therefore, homicide by reckless and wanton conduct is voluntary manslaughter (i.e., manslaughter in the first degree) and homicide by gross negligence is involuntary manslaughter (manslaughter in the second degree). Bentley v. Com., 354 S.W.2d 395 (Ky. 1862).
If the action which caused the killing was purely accidental, there is no manslaughter in the first degree, as this would indicate that the defendant did not commit the act with the required culpable state of mind. Hendricks v. Com., 550 S.W.2d 551 (Ky. 1977). Intent can be inferred from the accused’s acts or be founded on manifest or reckless disregard for safety of human life. Boggs v. Commonwealth, 148 S.W.2d (Ky. 1941).
One example of an accidental killing might be where a bystander grabbed or knocked the gun, which was pointed at the victim, who later died of the wound caused by subsequent gunshot. Dugan v. Com., 333 S.W.2d 755 (Ky. 1960). Another might be where the accused became voluntarily intoxicated but was so drunk at the time of the killing that he did not intend to commit the crime. Brown v. Com., 575 ZS.W.2d 451 (Ky. 1978). In that case, the accused is cannot be found guilty of first-degree manslaughter.
On the other hand, if the accident was caused by the defendant’s wantonly engaging in dangerous acts, such as twirling a pistol in his hands or pretending to shoot it while the chamber was loaded, then manslaughter might be appropriate. Shoupe v. Commonwealth, 171 S.W.2d 447 (Ky. 1943).
Many cases concerning manslaughter have to do with defenses. This is because manslaughter is a lesser included offense to murder, with the elements, except for the mental state requirement, being the same. Therefore, any legally recognized excuses (defenses) to murder often are the element which determines that the crime committed was manslaughter.
Note that there is no charge for attempted manslaughter because manslaughter does not have the mental state element that attempt requires (attempt requires a specific intent mental state such as intent to commit the crime, so any crime that does not require specific intent cannot support attempt). Prince v. Com., 987 S>W.2d 324 (Ky. App. 1997).


In defending against a charge of manslaughter in the first degree, the accused may assert that the crime committed did not rise to that level, but only rose to the level of second-degree manslaughter. The defense has to do with the mental state element: if the defendant did not act recklessly, but instead acted only negligently, then the killing does not rise to the level of first-degree manslaughter and the defendant may be convicted of second-degree manslaughter instead.



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