Unintentional killing charges come in several forms in Tennessee. Our Manchester manslaughter attorneys are well-versed in all of them.
Manslaughter is one of the most serious offenses in Tennessee. Frequently, the defendant did not even intend to seriously harm the alleged victim. Yet if the facts arguably support manslaughter, aggressive prosecutors almost always press such charges. These convictions have both direct and collateral consequences. Since these convictions often are not expungeable, an aggressive defense may be the only way to reduce or eliminate these consequences.
The forward-thinking Manchester manslaughter attorneys at Burch & Lockhart take a simple, straightforward approach to these cases. We plan our work, and then we work our plan. We carefully review the facts and the law, looking for any factual or legal defense which may help you. Frequently, we leverage these defenses to obtain a favorable pretrial agreement. So, our clients frequently do not need to go to court to reduce or eliminate negative consequences.
Vehicular Manslaughter Cases
Almost anything can be a deadly weapon in Tennessee. That includes a motor vehicle. In the wake of a fatal accident, prosecutors often file vehicular manslaughter charges, especially if the defendant was clearly at fault for the wreck.
In fact, the defendant need not even exhibit extreme recklessness. If the victim was killed in an alcohol-related crash, during a street race, or in a construction zone (and the victim was a construction worker), vehicular manslaughter charges could hold up in court. Maximum penalties vary in different situations.
But one thing is always the same. There must be compelling evidence, usually from an eyewitness, that the defendant was driving the car at the time. Lack of evidence on one point is often a very good defense for Manchester manslaughter attorneys to leverage during negotiations. Even the most skilled prosecutor in history cannot win cases without evidence.
Assault Manslaughter Prosecutions
These killings are not intentional. Instead, they were either reckless or criminally negligent. There is a fine distinction between the two.
Russian Roulette is the classic example of reckless manslaughter. If the gun contains one bullet and someone fires the gun, there is a substantial risk that the other person may die. Intent to do harm, or the lack thereof, is irrelevant.
Actor Brandon Lee’s 1993 death is an example of criminally negligent homicide. As Lee acted on set, no one checked the gun to see if it contained a live bullet. Once again, intent to harm was irrelevant.
Even if the defendant is found not guilty of one of the three forms of criminal manslaughter, a civil wrongful death suit may follow. In civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, Manchester manslaughter attorneys must work extra hard to successfully resolve these cases.
Procedural Defenses Available
Due to the nature of manslaughter cases, defenses like self-defense are often unavailable. Procedural defenses, however, are often a possibility.
Failure to properly Mirandize the defendant is one of the most common procedural defenses in manslaughter cases. As soon as custodial interrogation begins, officers must give defendants their Miranda rights (you have the right to remain silent, etc.)
Both these elements bear some explanation. “Custody” does not begin when the cell doors shut. Instead, custody begins when the defendant does not feel free to leave. That could be as soon as flashing lights appear in the rearview mirror. Furthermore, “interrogation” does not mean asking relevant questions. Experienced interrogators know how to extract information without asking questions, or at least by asking seemingly off-the-wall questions.
The failure to Mirandize the defendant usually means that any evidence officers obtain subsequently, including a confession, is inadmissible in court.
Count on Experienced Attorneys
Manslaughter charges are quite serious, but several defenses are available. For a free consultation with an experienced manslaughter attorney in Manchester, contact Burch & Lockhart. We routinely handle matters in Coffee County and nearby jurisdictions.