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Homicide Cases in Wisconsin

 Posted on June 30, 2017 in Criminal Defense

homicide cases, Milwaukee homicide defense lawyers,  homicide charges, intent to kill, Wisconsin homicide lawsBy Steven McGaver and Raymond Dall’Osto

In Wisconsin, the intent of the accused matters a great deal for most crimes. When someone dies at the hands of another, the government’s ability to prove that the accused acted with specific intent can be the difference between first-degree intentional homicide, a Class A felony and mandatory life imprisonment, and a lesser degree of homicide, including reckless or negligent homicide, which is not as severely punished.

Wisconsin has several homicide laws that can be applicable when the accused allegedly killed someone without intent. Generally in these non-specific intent cases, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused’s reckless or negligent conduct caused another to die, in order to be convicted. Some charges, such as under the Len Bias law (furnishing drugs) or homicide by intoxicated driving, veer perilously close to imposing strict liability, which can raise serious constitutional concerns.

Wisconsin, like most other states, used to have a specific manslaughter statute. Manslaughter is an intermediate crime which lies halfway between the more serious crime of murder and justifiable or excusable homicide. In the late 1980’s, Wisconsin’s homicide laws were revamped, so that now, there are varying degrees of intentional homicide, reckless homicide and homicide by negligent or other conduct. See sections 940.01, .02, .03, .05, .06, .08 and .10, Wis. Stats. What was once known as manslaughter has been subsumed within this statutory structure.

Some Examples of Wisconsin Homicide Crimes Not Involving Specific Intent to Kill

  • First and second-degree reckless homicide. These crimes are defined as recklessly causing the death of another human being, which are Class B and D felonies, respectively. Sections 940.02 and 06, Wis. Stats.
  • Len Bias law. Furnishing drugs to a person, who dies as a result of ingesting drug. Section 940.02(2), Wis. Stats. (Class B felony).
  • Homicide by the negligent handling of explosives, fire, or dangerous weapons, or negligent control of a vicious animal. To be guilty of this crime, the accused must have caused the killing of another through negligent conduct, which are Class G felonies. Sections 940.07 and .08, Wis. Stats.
  • Homicide by the intoxicated use of a vehicle. One must cause the death of someone else by operating a vehicle while:
    • Being under the influence of an intoxicant;
    • Having a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in one’s blood;
    • Having a "prohibited blood alcohol concentration" (PAC), which is typically .08 or more, but can be less if there are previous convictions and suspensions; or
    • Having a BAC of 0.04 to .08, if driving a commercial vehicle.

Section 940.09(1), Wis. Stats. (Class D felony).

  • Homicide by the intoxicated use of a firearm. The accused must have caused the death of another by handling or operating a firearm while:
    • Under the influence of an intoxicant;
    • Having a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in the accused’s blood; or
    • Having a PAC of 0.08 or greater.

Section 940.09(1g), Wis. Stats. (Class D felony).

  • Homicide by the negligent operation of a vehicle. To be guilty of this crime, the accused must have caused the death of another by the negligent operation or handling of a motor vehicle.

Section 940.10, Wis. Stats. (Class G felony).

Some Defenses to Homicide Charges

In the case of homicide by negligent use of a vehicle or firearm while intoxicated, it sometimes can be argued that the loss of life would have happened even if the accused had exercised proper care or had not been intoxicated. See Section 940.09(2), Wis. Stats.

It may also be a valid defense that the accused has a prescription for the restricted controlled substance detected in his or her blood. A careful investigation to establish potential available legal defenses always needs to be done.

Contact a Milwaukee, WI, Homicide Defense Attorney

If you, a family member or friend face or have been charged with any type of homicide charge — intentional, reckless, negligent or while intoxicated — you need an experienced defense attorney who can provide you with an individualized investigation and representation to give you the fullest possible defense available under law.

As someone accused of a crime, you have constitutional rights and protections. A skilled criminal defense attorney will make sure that your rights are protected and are fully asserted during all stages of your case. The lawyers at GRGB have represented many individuals who have been charged with almost all degrees of homicide, including at jury trials and on appeal.

Call the experienced Milwaukee homicide defense lawyers at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP at 414-271-1440 if you face this type of serious criminal charge, or other crimes.


Wisconsin Statutes Chap. 940


Wayne LaFave, Criminal Law, 4th ed. (Thomson West)

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