Mark Scruggs, Trial Attorney
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When rowdiness on campus leads to criminal charges

College life in Tennessee (or anywhere, for that matter) can be rewarding, adventurous and lots of fun. As you're likely aware if you've been in college for a year or more, it can also be quite academically, emotionally and socially challenging at times. The party scene is a typical part of college life. When you choose to participate, you may encounter various types of situations that require decisions on your part.  

Will you drink alcohol then drive? Will you smoke pot? Will you engage in an intimate encounter with someone you just met? It's no secret that the college party scene sometimes gets out of hand. You may show up to a party, get a little wild and before you know it, a tragic accident occurs, police arrive and you're wearing handcuffs on your way to jail. If the situation involves another person's fatal injury, you could wind up facing involuntary manslaughter charges if you're accused of contributing to the death.     

Homicide, murder or manslaughter?                

You may have a difficult time understanding legal terminology; most people who are not well-versed in criminal law would agree that understanding legal definitions and how they apply to a particular situation can be challenging. However, when an unintentional death results from reckless or negligent behavior, the law generally defines it as involuntary manslaughter. The following facts further explain this term and how facing charges in connection with a fatal incident may impact the rest of your life: 

  • You may also hear authorities or legal officials refer to involuntary manslaughter as criminally negligent homicide. 
  • Voluntary manslaughter differs from involuntary manslaughter because the latter means a death was not intended. 
  • Involuntary manslaughter often arises out of intense moments of passion or anger, such as if two lovers quarrel and one storms out the door to go for a drive and winds up striking and killing a pedestrian while driving 70 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone.  
  • The example mentioned in the previous section would constitute involuntary manslaughter because the driver did not set out to take a life. 
  • If, on the other hand, the quarreling lover would fire a gun at the person with whom he or she were arguing, he or she may face voluntary manslaughter charges, even though that act arose in a moment of anger. Prosecutors would likely argue that the death was not an accident and, therefore, voluntary. 
  • Another issue that defines involuntary manslaughter is that the act by which a person died must be something most people know to be dangerous.    

If you commit an act that you do not realize is dangerous, you would be able to dispute involuntary manslaughter charges because your cognizance of the risk involved in the act must be evident for a conviction to take place.  

Perhaps you and your college friends were playing some type of drinking game, or other risk-taking folly, and you supplied the alcohol to the person who later died or you did something else that placed you at risk for criminal charges. None of that means you are automatically going to face conviction. The Tennessee justice system presumes your innocence unless prosecutors prove otherwise.

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Mark Scruggs, Trial Attorney
95 White Bridge Rd. Ste 508
Nashville, TN 37205

Phone: 615-988-4128
Fax: 615-356-6954
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