What is Depraved Indifference?
How do you legally define it?
What are the important elements you should know!
In this article, we will break down the legal definition of Depraved Indifference so you know all there is to know about it!
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Table of Contents
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
- Third-degree murder
In cases when the victim does not die from the defendant’s actions, the following charges can be filed against the defendant:
- Reckless endangerment
- Aggravated assault
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.
If you enjoyed this article on Depraved Indifference, we recommend you look into the following legal terms and concepts. Enjoy!
Related legal terms
Deprived mind murder
Depraved Indifference Murder
Depravity of Mind