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Unintentional vs. Intentional Homicide
Wisconsin laws do not include a crime known as unintentional homicide. An unintentional homicide - perhaps referred to as an accidental homicide - can still be charged by the state (or the federal government) as a crime. The actual charges that the prosecuting attorney will seek will depend on the circumstances and events leading up to the death, as well as the state's case and the elements of the crime that the prosecuting attorney believes he or she will be able to prove at trial.
Intent is one of the elements that must be proven in most crimes; however, the legal definition of "intent" differs from the common perception of the word. An intent under the law merely means that the person intended to do that act which then resulted in the commission of a crime. For example, a drunk driver might not intend to cause a death or even an accident, but if he or she got behind the wheel of a car and drove it, then the intent to drive (which then resulted in a death) is the intent element of the crime of vehicular homicide.
Intent is one of the elements of a murder charge that the state (or federal) government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a person. Intent is an element of the crimes of Felony Murder, Intentional Homicide, Reckless Homicide, and Vehicular Homicide. The mere fact that the defendant did not intend to cause a death does not remove criminal liability. For example, if during the defendant's act of committing another dangerous felony a person is killed, the prosecuting attorney need not prove that the defendant intended to cause a death; rather, if the prosecutor is able to prove that the defendant intended to commit the dangerous felony, then any death resulting during the commission of that felony can be charged as a felony murder.
An "unintended result" occurs when a person intends to cause harm to another person, and subsequently causes a greater harm or death. While the intended result may have been a simple battery, the law views the resulting death as an intentional homicide. The prosecuting attorney will seek to prove the intent element of the crime of criminal homicide by the defendant's mere intent to cause any harm.
If a person intends to cause a murder, but kills the wrong person, the charge is still murder. Wisconsin law recognizes a legal theory called transferred intent, which means, in short, that any intent upon any victim is transferred to the actual victim. For example, if a defendant sought to harm Mr. A, but missed Mr. A and killed Mr. B, the defendant's intent to harm Mr. A is transferred to Mr. B. The prosecuting attorney will meet the burden of his or her proof of intent even though the wrong victim was killed. The resulting charges will depend upon the circumstances in the case and the events leading up to the death, but likely will be brought as an intentional homicide.