Accusations of any type of criminal charges can be troubling, and those who have been arrested and charged with crimes may be unsure about their options for defense. However, charges of homicide, murder, manslaughter, or related offenses can be especially serious, and being accused of these types of offenses can be an incredibly frightening situation. It is important for criminal defendants to understand the laws that address homicide in Wisconsin and the circumstances that can lead to these types of charges. With the help of a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney, a person can determine the best defense strategies in these situations.
Homicide Charges Under Wisconsin Law
Homicide is a term that refers to the unlawful killing of another person. Under Wisconsin law, there are several different categories of homicide charges, each with its own set of circumstances and potential consequences. These offenses include:
First-degree intentional homicide – This is the most serious homicide charge in Wisconsin. It may apply in situations where a person is accused of intentionally causing the death of someone else. A person may be charged with first-degree homicide if the act was premeditated or planned. However, defenses against these charges may be based on mitigating circumstances, such as the use of deadly force by a person who believed this was necessary to defend themselves or someone else against death or great bodily harm or to prevent someone else from committing a felony offense. First-degree intentional homicide is a Class A felony, and a person who is convicted may be sentenced to life in prison.
First-degree reckless homicide – This charge may apply if a person is accused of causing the death of someone else through actions that displayed a complete disregard for human life. First-degree reckless homicide is usually charged as a Class B felony, and it may result in a prison sentence of up to 60 years. In cases where a person is accused of causing someone else’s death due to the manufacture or delivery of controlled substances, such as by selling drugs to someone who then died because of an overdose, the person may be charged with a Class C felony, and if they are convicted, they may be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison and fined up to $100,000.
Second-degree intentional homicide – This charge may apply if a person is accused of intentionally causing the death of someone else, but there were mitigating circumstances. These circumstances may include acting due to provocation by the alleged victim, acting unreasonably while attempting self-defense or to protect others, or using deadly force to prevent a person from committing a felony. Second-degree intentional homicide is a Class B felony.
Second-degree reckless homicide – This charge may apply if a person caused someone else’s death through conduct that they knew would put others at substantial risk of death or great bodily harm. Second-degree reckless homicide is a Class D felony, and a conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to 25 years and a maximum fine of $100,000.
Felony murder – A person may face murder charges if they allegedly caused the death of someone else while committing or attempting to commit a felony, such as battery, sexual assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, arson, burglary, carjacking, or robbery. A conviction for felony murder can result in up to 15 years being added to a prison sentence for any other felony offenses.
Homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle – This offense is sometimes known as “intoxication manslaughter,” and it may apply if a person caused someone else’s death while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This offense is usually charged as a Class D felony, although Class C felony charges may apply if a person had previously been convicted of OWI or had their driver’s license suspended following a drunk driving arrest.
Homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle – This offense may apply in situations where a person allegedly caused a car accident that resulted in someone’s death. It is a Class G felony, and a conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum $25,000 fine.