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Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

Note: This law applies only to Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter offenses allegedly committed on or after 1 January 2019.

What is Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter?

Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter military defense lawyersArticle 119 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses the offense of involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter refers to an unintentional killing resulting from either culpable negligence or during the commission of a non-felony crime or lawful act that might unlawfully produce death. This category of manslaughter is distinguished from other forms since it does not involve any wrongful intent to kill.

The UCMJ under Article 119 specifies that service members can be guilty of involuntary manslaughter if their actions demonstrate culpable negligence – meaning actions that show a reckless disregard for human life or safety – which leads to the unintended death of another person. Additionally, suppose a service member causes death during the commission of a lawful act performed illegally or while committing a lesser offense. In that case, these conditions can also meet the definition of involuntary manslaughter under this article.

Court Martial Lawyers for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter Defense

Given the serious nature of this offense, those involved or accused under Article 119 must seek legal counsel promptly. Convictions for involuntary manslaughter under the UCMJ can result in severe penalties, including dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and extended confinement. A military defense lawyer with a thorough understanding of military law can present a strategic defense or potentially mitigate the severity of the consequences.

At Gonzalez & Waddington, we recognize the complex and unique aspects of military law that differentiate it from civilian legal systems. If you or a loved one is suspected of involuntary manslaughter under Article 119 UCMJ, it is crucial to act quickly and secure experienced legal representation. A knowledgeable military defense attorney can navigate the intricacies of the UCMJ, advocate on your behalf, and work towards achieving the most favorable outcome possible under the circumstances.

What are the Elements of Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter?

  1. That (state the name or description of the alleged victim) is dead;
  2. That (his) (her) death resulted from the (act) (omission) of the accused in (state the act or omission alleged) at (state the time and place alleged);
  3. That the killing of (state the name or description of the alleged victim) by the accused was unlawful; and
  4. That this (act) (omission) constituted culpable negligence.

What are the Elements of Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter of a child under 16 years of age?

  1. That (state the name or description of the alleged victim) is dead;
  2. That (his) (her) death resulted from the (act) (omission) of the accused in (state the act or omission alleged) at (state the time and place alleged);
  3. That the killing of (state the name or description of the alleged victim) by the accused was unlawful;
  4. That this (act) (omission) constituted culpable negligence; and
  5. That (state the name or description of the alleged victim) was a child under the age of 16 years.

What are the Maximum Punishments for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter?

Maximum Punishment for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter committed between 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Dec 2023:

  • 10 Years of Confinement
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction

Maximum Punishment for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter committed after 27 Dec 2023

Maximum Punishment for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter of a child under 16 years of age committed between 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Dec 2023:

  • 15 Years of Confinement
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction

Maximum Punishment for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter of a child under 16 years of age committed after 27 Dec 2023

  • Under the Sentencing Parameters, Article 119 UCMJ Voluntary Manslaughter is a Category 4 Offense – Confinement from 120-240 months (10 to 20 years)
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction
  • Note: The Military Judge MAY impose a period of confinement less than the jurisdictional maximum period of confinement upon finding specific facts that warrant such a sentence. Manual for Courts-Martial, United States (2024 ed.), Appendix 12B-C

Combined UCMJ Maximum Punishment Charts

Sample Specifications for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

In that 1SG Bobby Dickle, US Army, did, at Wheeler Army Air Field, Hawaii, on or about 2 February 2025, by culpable negligence, unlawfully kill Smaantha Dickle, a child under 16 years of age, by shaking her.

Model Specifications for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

In that _______ (personal jurisdiction data), did, (at/on board–location), on or about ________, by culpable negligence, unlawfully kill __________ (a child under 16 years of age) by ________ (him) (her) (in) (on) the __________ with a __________.

What are the Definitions for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter?

Killing a human being is unlawful when done without legal justification or excuse.

“Culpable negligence” is a degree of carelessness greater than simple negligence.

‘Simple negligence” is the absence of due care. The law always requires everyone to demonstrate care for the safety of others, which a reasonably careful person would demonstrate under the same or similar circumstances; this is what “due care” means.

Culpable Negligence in Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter?

“Culpable negligence” is a negligent act or failure to act accompanied by a gross, reckless, wanton, or deliberate disregard for the foreseeable results to others.

You may find the accused guilty of involuntary manslaughter only if you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the (act) (omission) of the accused which caused the death amounted to “culpable negligence.”

Proximate cause in issue in an Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter case

In an appropriate case, the following instructions relating to proximate cause should be given:

The (act) (omission) must not only amount to culpable negligence but must also be a proximate cause of death. “Proximate cause” means that the death must have been the natural and probable result of the accused’s culpably negligent (act) (omission). The proximate cause does not have to be the only cause; it must be a contributory cause that plays an important part in bringing about death. (It is possible for the conduct of two or more persons to contribute each as a proximate cause to the death of another.

Suppose the accused’s conduct was the proximate cause of the victim’s death. In that case, the accused will not be relieved of criminal responsibility just because some other person’s conduct was also a proximate cause of the death.) If the death occurred only because of some unforeseeable, independent, intervening cause that did not involve the accused, then the accused may not be convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

The burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (that there was no independent, intervening cause) (and) (that the accused’s culpable negligence was a proximate cause of the victim’s death).

Contributory negligence of victim and Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

In an appropriate case, the following instructions on contributory negligence of the victim should be given:

There is evidence in this case raising the issue of whether the deceased failed to use reasonable care and caution for his/her own safety. Suppose the accused’s culpable negligence was a proximate cause of the death. In that case, the accused is not relieved of criminal responsibility just because the negligence of the deceased may also have contributed to his/her death. The conduct of the deceased is, however, important on the issue of whether the accused’s culpable negligence, if any, was a proximate cause of death.

Accordingly, a certain (act) (omission) may be a proximate cause of death even if it is not the only cause, as long as it is a direct or contributing cause and plays an important role in causing the death. An (act) (omission) is not a proximate cause of the death if some other force independent of the accused’s (act) (omission) intervened as a cause of death.

The accused’s knowledge of the child’s age and Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

When the alleged victim is a child under the age of 16, provide the following instruction: Knowledge that (state the name or description of the alleged victim) was under 16 years is not an element of the offense.

Accordingly, if you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that (state the name of the alleged victim) was under the age of 16 years at the time of the alleged offense, you are advised that the prosecution is not required to prove that the accused knew that (state the name of the alleged victim) was under the age of 16 years at the time of the alleged offense. It is not a defense to involuntary manslaughter upon a child even if the accused reasonably believed that (state the name of the alleged victim) was at least 16 years old.

Brain death instruction and Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

The military standard for death includes brain death. An individual is dead who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of spontaneous respiration and circulatory functions or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain, including the brain stem. See US v. Gomez, 15 MJ 954 (ACMR 1983); US v. Jefferson, 22 MJ 315 (CMA 1986); and US v. Taylor, 44 MJ 254 (CAAF 1996). Instruction 7-24, Brain Death, may be adapted for this circumstance.

Overview of Article Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

Article 119 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses involuntary manslaughter. This serious offense involves causing the death of another person through reckless or negligent actions without the intent to kill. This provision applies to individuals whose conduct demonstrates a disregard for the foreseeable risk of death or serious bodily injury resulting in a fatality.

Hiring a Military Defense Lawyer for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter can occur in various contexts, such as negligent discharge of a firearm, driving under the influence resulting in a fatal accident, or failing to perform duties with due care that leads to death.

Unlike voluntary manslaughter, which involves a killing in the heat of passion or during a sudden quarrel, involuntary manslaughter lacks any premeditation or intent to kill. The key element is the unintentional nature of the death, stemming from actions that are criminally negligent or reckless. Conviction under Article 119 can lead to severe consequences, including imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, and loss of military benefits.

Selecting the Best Military Defense Lawyers for Article 119 UCMJ Involuntary Manslaughter

The prosecution must prove that the accused’s actions were the proximate cause of the death and that those actions were inherently dangerous or grossly negligent. Defenses against this charge might include demonstrating that the accused exercised reasonable care or that the death was a result of unforeseeable circumstances beyond the accused’s control.

Article 119 emphasizes the importance of accountability and the duty of care expected from military personnel, underscoring that even unintentional acts of negligence or recklessness that result in death will be met with significant legal repercussions to maintain order and discipline within the armed forces.

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