Reckless Homicide Law & Legal Definition


Reckless homicide is the killing of another person by a reckless act. In some states, involuntary manslaughter committed by use of a motor vehicle is called reckless homicide. Laws governing reckless homicide vary by jurisdiction.

In general, "recklessly" means that a person acts recklessly with respect to circumstances surrounding the conduct or the result of the conduct when the person is aware of, but consciously disregards, a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the accused person's standpoint.

The requirement of "recklessly" is also established if it is shown that the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly.

The following is an example of a state statute defining reckless homicide:

" Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Homicide.

  1. person who unintentionally kills an individual without lawful justification commits involuntary manslaughter if his acts whether lawful or unlawful which cause the death are such as are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual, and he performs them recklessly, except in cases in which the cause of the death consists of the driving of a motor vehicle, in which case the person commits reckless homicide.
  2. In cases involving reckless homicide, being under the influence of alcohol or any other drug or drugs at the time of the alleged violation shall be presumed to be evidence of a reckless act unless disproved by evidence to the contrary.

For the purposes of this Section, a person shall be considered to be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs while:

  • The alcohol concentration in the person's blood or breath is 0.08 or more based on the definition of blood and breath units in Section 11501.2 of the Vehicle Code;
  • Under the influence of alcohol to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a motor vehicle or operating a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or watercraft; or
  • Under the influence of any other drug of combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a motor vehicle or operating a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle or watercraft; or
  • Under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug or drugs to a degree which renders the person incapable of safely driving a motor vehicle or operating a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle or watercraft."