What Is 2nd Degree Manslaughter?

A person who had just been released from prison.

Published April 27th, 2021

These past few months, we’ve heard about police officers getting charged for 2nd-degree manslaughter in the wake of controversial police brutality cases. One was Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s knee. Another is Kim Potter, the officer who claims to have shot a teenage boy by mistake while his hands are up in the air.

But what does a 2nd degree manslaughter charge mean?

The definitions and provisions can vary per state. But, in general, second-degree manslaughter happens when:

  • a person kills another without intending to or as a result of recklessness or
  • the person continued a reckless act knowing full well that it can result in fatal consequences

Since it involves killing someone, the perpetrator can face jail time, penalty, or both. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, it can last from a year to 30 years.

If you or someone you know is being charged with second-degree manslaughter, here’s what you need to know:

Murder vs. Manslaughter

The main difference between murder and manslaughter is the motive or intent. With murder, the perpetrator has the motive and really intends to get rid of the victim. But with manslaughter, there is no intent involved.

Remember that manslaughter a result of a reckless act. This means that the perpetrator didn’t really want or intend to kill the victim. In some instances, they may want to harm the victim but the intent to kill is not there. The absence of intent means that manslaughter has less moral blame than murder. Thus, it usually has lesser punishment.

A man in handcuffs puts his hands through the bars.

1st Degree vs. 2nd Degree Manslaughter

In some states, manslaughter is not classified by degree but categorized into voluntary and involuntary. Some of the states that classify manslaughter into degrees are:

In these states, first degree manslaughter, in general, happens when:

  • someone intends to hurt another but ends up killing that person
  • someone kills another because of extreme emotional disturbance
  • a person intentionally kills someone due to verbal or physical provocation

Most states also have specific provisions as to what constitutes 1st degree manslaughter. In Oklahoma, a person who killed another while resisting an attempt by the person killed to commit a crime  may also be charged with manslaughter in the first degree.

While second-degree manslaughter generally happens when:

  • a person died due to the other’s recklessness.
  • the perpetrator intentionally caused or assisted that person to commit suicide
  • a person was killed but the circumstances of the crime cannot be considered murder or first degree manslaughter

In some states, abortion may also be considered second-degree manslaughter especially if the mother died during the process.

How Long Do You Go to Jail For It?

Since it’s a felony, second-degree manslaughter can send you to prison for a year or several years. How long you’ll remain in jail depends on:

  • the severity of the crime
  • the state where it happened

Each state has their own way of punishing manslaughter crimes. In states with second-degree manslaughter charges have the following prescribed jail time:

  • Connecticut – 1 to 20 years
  • Kentucky – 5 to 10 years
  • Minnesota – up to 10 years
  • South Dakota – up to 10 years (plus $20,000 in fines)
  • Oklahoma – 2 to 4 years
  • New York – 1 to 15 years

In states where manslaughter is classified as voluntary or involuntary, jail time can be up to 40 years sometimes with no probability of parole.

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Judy Ponio an author for GlobalTel

About The Author

Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of sharing knowledge. Having extensive experience in the prison industry, she wants to share what she knows with the world. Judy also loves to write about political and legal topics.