Home Law Depraved Indifference (Legal Definition And Crucial Overview)

Depraved Indifference (Legal Definition And Crucial Overview)

What is Depraved Indifference?

How do you legally define it?

What are the important elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our criminal law knowledge!

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What Is Depraved Indifference 

Depraved indifference is a type of conduct that lacks so much regard for the life of another person that it may warrant criminal liability to the same degree as a person intentionally committing a crime.

When assessing a person’s act, to qualify as “depraved indifference”, it’s important to look at the risk generated by the person’s conduct and not necessarily the consequences of injuries caused by the conduct.

In the United States, a depraved-heart murder or depraved indifference murder is a type of murder caused by a person’s depraved indifference to the human life although the person may not have had an explicit intention to murder.

In this type of situation, the defendant recognizes that his or her actions can result in the death of another or there is a high likelihood that another may die but chooses to ignore the risk.

The law considers that the person’s indifference or lack of concern for the risk to the life of another is so grave that the actions should be considered as a crime as if the person had malicious intent.

Depraved Indifference definition

How do you define depraved indifference?

The legal definition of depraved indifference can be summed up as follows:

A person’s conduct or behavior that is so reckless and lacks regard for the life, security and safety of others that it must be punished to the same extent as a crime resulting from the person’s deliberate and intentional desire to harm another.

In other words, a person’s “indifference” causing death or harm should be treated as if the person “deliberately” caused death or harm.

We can also say that it’s a criminal indifference.

In essence, from this definition, we can extract the following meaning:

  • Conduct that results in an unjustifiable risk to others 
  • The person committing the conduct is aware of the risk 
  • The risk is so important that not caring for it or disregarding it constitutes a crime
  • The law considers that not caring for the risk of harm is equivalent to having deliberately caused the harm

Depraved indifference charge 

Depending on the circumstances of the case, deprived indifference cases can lead to the following charges:

  • Second-degree murder
  • Wanton murder
  • Manslaughter 
  • Third-degree murder 
  • Homicide 

In cases when the victim does not die from the defendant’s actions, the following charges can be filed against the defendant:

  • Reckless endangerment 
  • Assault
  • Aggravated assault 
  • Other 

Defendant’s state of mind 

Depraved indifference conducts are assessed in light of the defendant’s state of mind when committing the offense.

The analysis involves the evaluation of what was the offender thinking when acting in a way causing the death or harm to others.

Generally, a person must utterly not care for the extreme risk or possibility of another one dying even though the risk was apparent and noticeable.

The law considers that the fact that the person did not care is so blameworthy that the person should be liable and culpable as if he or she intended to cause harm.

When the person does not care, we say that there was “malice aforethought”.

Malice aforethought can be explicit and when it’s not, it can be implied. 

Depraved indifference cases

The case Commonwealth v. Malone is a noteworthy example of a depraved-heart murder under the common law.

In this case, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania came to the conclusion that there was a second-degree murder caused by a teenager playing Russian roulette with a real firearm where the defendant pointed and fired a gun at the other causing death.

In the case People v. Feingold, the Court of Appeals indicated that depraved indifference is a culpable mental state.

This means that the person’s indifference is a state of mind that must lead to criminal liability to the same extent as if the person was knowingly and intentionally committing the offense.


So what is the legal definition of Depraved Indifference?

What does depraved indifference mean?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Depraved Indifference:

  • Depraved indifference is conduct that creates a grave and unjustifiable risk to another potentially causing death and where the person committing such conduct is aware of the risk and utterly disregards it
  • The “indifference” is so reckless, so blameworthy, so deficient of moral sense that the law considers it criminally punishable
  • The person’s indifference, recklessness, or behavior is deemed to be a state of mind that is equivalent to a person with the intention of committing a crime 
  • To evaluate this conduct, it’s important to look at the defendant’s state of mind rather than the consequences of the action 
Criminal defense 
Criminal law 
Criminal lawyer
Culpable negligence 
Defense lawyer 
Deprived mind murder
Depraved Indifference Murder
Depraved-Heart Murder
Depravity of Mind
Reckless homicide
Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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