Constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter is a form of involuntary manslaughter that occurs when the defendant or the accused kills the other without having the intention to kill or lacks the mens rea to kill i.e. the defendant does not intend to kill but regardless, death is the outcome of the defendant’s actions or the actions of the accused. It must be distinguished from voluntary manslaughter which occurs in the heat of the moment and involuntary manslaughter (reckless manslaughter).
In order for a plea of constructive manslaughter to succeed, it is a lesser offence when compared to murder, the defendant or the accused must satisfy three criteria. They are as follows: –
- The accused must have a committed an unlawful act which is not always necessarily the same as a reckless act. For example, if the speed limit is 60 km per hour and the accused or the defendant was driving at 80 km per hour then the act is unlawful. However, if the driver was driving at 59 km per hour down a busy street but he or she was swerving his or her car to the right and to the left in an attempt to show off his or her driving skills than the act is a reckless act.
If the defendant or the accused hits a pedestrian while driving at 80 km per hour without having the intention of killing anyone and the pedestrian dies as a result, he or she is most likely guilty of constructive manslaughter.
However if the defendant or the accused hits and kills a pedestrian while he or she is driving at 59 km per hour because he or she decided to veer to the right and to the left, while driving, for the sake of doing so or for the sake of testing one’s driving skills, and while doing so hits and kills a pedestrian then he or she is most likely guilty of reckless manslaughter.
- The act must be dangerous i.e. the act must be an act that can eventuate in death or cause serious injury to another. Driving down a busy street for example, at 80 km per hour or above the speed limit, is a dangerous act.
- Finally, the unlawful and dangerous act must have caused the death of another or must have resulted in the death of another. For example, when the defendant or the accused is speeding down a busy street and as a result hits a pedestrian and the pedestrian is killed.
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward