In Minnesota, if a person dies while you are committing a crime as minor as fist fighting or drunk driving, you can be convicted of murder. There is a general presumption in the law that a person must have evil intent to be charged for a serious crime. The idea is that if a person does not intend to commit the crime, they don’t have the mental state necessary to be held responsible for a serious crime like murder. However, Minnesota disagrees. Learn more below and if you are facing a serious criminal charge like murder, then you want to make sure that you have a trustworthy and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney representing you. Contact our criminal law firm in Minnesota today.
Depraved Mind Murder
Depraved mind murder (or depraved heart murder as it is sometimes referred to) is a type of third-degree murder in Minnesota. Minnesota’s statute for depraved mind murder reads, “whoever, without intent…causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life…” is guilty of depraved mind murder. ¹ Charging a person with depraved mind murder relies on the assumption that there are reckless acts so dangerous that a person should be charged with murder if another person dies while you are engaging in them.
Examples of depraved mind murder include violently driving an automobile ², the accidental discharge of a gun during a fight³, and Mohammed Noor’s widely publicized charge of shooting a woman while on duty as a police officer.
Felony murder is a type of second-degree murder in Minnesota. Felony murder leaves less discretion to the prosecutor as the definition is more discrete but punishes accidental behavior just as harshly. A person can be convicted of felony murder in Minnesota if that person, “causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense other than criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force or violence or a drive-by shooting.” ⁴
A person can be charged with felony murder if a person dies while the defendant is committing a crime as minor as a felony DWI. ⁵
Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?
A person can be punished with up to 24 years in prison for committing a depraved mind murder or felony murder.
Many states reformed their laws to do away with felony murder to more fairly punish individuals that accidentally commit crimes. However, Minnesota has unfortunately not adopted these changes. Many people commit felony DWI’s or recklessly drive automobiles every day in Minnesota, and it is only a matter of chance that some of them result in an accidental death. Categorizing these deaths in the same realm as intentional killings grossly violates notions held in our country about fairness and justice in the law.
When being accused of serious crimes, you need serious representation in order to protect your future. Brian Karalus is not afraid to take on the big cases and has an incredibly long list of notable victories to prove that he is the best criminal defense attorney serving Minnesota and Wisconsin. Contact Karalus Law today.
¹Minn. Stat. § 609.195.
²State v. Weltz, 193 N.W. 42 (Minn. 1923).
³State v. Nelson, 181 N.W. 850 (Minn. 1921).
⁴Minn. Stat. § 609.19.
⁵State v. Smoot, 737 N.W.2d 849 (Minn. Ct. App. 2007).