Alec Baldwin charged with Involuntary Manslaughter – How serious is this criminal charge and could he go to prison?
Authorities in New Mexico have charged actor Alec Baldwin with 2 counts of involuntary manslaughter following a 2021 incident in which he allegedly fired a prop gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchinson and injured a director. This case brings with it an opportunity to explain the different forms of criminal homicide.
New Mexico, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey where our law firm defends individuals charged with crimes, maintains a criminal statute which covers various forms of homicide which include murder and manslaughter. Manslaughter is further classified into 2 categories of voluntary and involuntary, very similar to Pennsylvania.
What is Voluntary Manslaughter as opposed to Involuntary Manslaughter?
Voluntary manslaughter occurs when a person intentionally kills another person during a “heat of passion” such as a fight or under the mistaken belief that his or her life is in danger (aka imperfect self defense). Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional act which leads to another’s death through gross negligence or recklessness.
Pennsylvania grades involuntary manslaughter as a misdemeanor of the 1st degree. In Pennsylvania, involuntary manslaughter can be graded as a felony if the victim is under the age of 12 and is in care or custody of a person who caused the death.
New Jersey separates the crime of manslaughter between the categories of aggravated manslaughter and manslaughter. In New Jersey manslaughter refers to a person who recklessly causes the death of another person and can be graded as a crime of the 1st or 2nd degree depending on the circumstances surrounding what occurred (See 2C: 11-4; See Pennsylvania Title 18 § 2504).
In New Mexico, manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a person without malice. In contrast Murder, in Mexico, is the killing of another through a willful, deliberate, and premeditated act. The crime of manslaughter is divided between Voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing for which there was a mitigating circumstance which lowers the crime from murder. Involuntary manslaughter is a killing that was unintentional, resulting from either recklessness or criminal negligence.
Potential Criminal Penalties for Involuntary Manslaughter? Could Alec Baldwin go to jail?
In New Mexico, involuntary manslaughter it is fourth-degree felony and carries with it up to 18 months in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. If Baldwin was convicted on both counts, he could face as much as 3 years in state prison!
The maximum punishment for involuntary manslaughter is Pennsylvania is 5 years of state prison! While Baldwin has no prior criminal history, he faces a very real possibility of county jail or perhaps state prison. It is unlikely that the prosecutor will offer him or agree to any diversion program. His criminal defense lawyer could potentially negotiate a favorable plea or consider taking the case to trial.
What are the degrees of Murder in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
Murder is the more serious category and it is separated by 3 degrees in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Murder of the 1st degree is a criminal homicide committed by an intentional act. While murder of the 2nd degree is committed when a homicide occurs while a defendant or his or her accomplice is engaged in committing a felony crime such as robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, arson, kidnapping, or rape. (See 18 § 2502 – Pennsylvania; 2C: 11-3 – New Jersey).
While New Jersey does not specifically differentiate between murders of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree within its crimes code, it does define the types of murder similarly to Pennsylvania. New Jersey defines all murder as a crime of the 1st degree which is the most serious offense in New Jersey. Murder which results from an intentional act (murder of the 1st degree in Pennsylvania) carries with it a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Murder of the 2nd degree in Pennsylvania also carries with it a life sentence. While murder of the 3rd degree in Pennsylvania carries with it a maximum sentence of 40 years of state incarceration.
What is Felony Murder
Murder of the 2nd degree is felony murder in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and so, the principle actor and his or her accomplice face a potential life sentence if convicted of this crime. It is irrelevant if either the principle or the accomplices intended or set out to kill anyone during the commission of the felony.
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