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Call Meyer Van Severen, S.C. for first-degree reckless homicide defense

First-degree reckless homicide is a serious criminal charge to face in Wisconsin.  Section 940.02 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits the crime, and it’s punishable by up to 60 years in prison.  A more mitigated version of the offense is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.  The maximum penalty depends upon the circumstances of the offense.

Secondly, any case involving murder, manslaughter, or homicide is serious.  At Meyer Van Severen, S.C. we focus all of our resources on criminal and drunk driving cases.  We certainly don’t handle family law cases, or business cases.  We won’t write your will.  And the reason for that focus is simple: it makes us better criminal defense attorneys.  And better criminal defense attorneys achieve better results for you.

Finally, if you face homicide charges, call Meyer Van Severen, S.C. at (414) 270-0202.  Quickly hiring a top criminal defense attorney is certainly crucial to your defense.


What is first degree reckless homicide?

First-degree reckless homicide is the kind of criminal charge that carries a few different version.  This crime focuses on the murder of other adults, the murder of an unborn child, and delivery of drugs resulting in death.

Section 940.02(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes provides:

“Whoever recklessly causes the death of another human being under circumstances which show utter disregard for human life is guilty of a Class B felony.”

First degree reckless homicide is the homicide charge we most-frequently encounter in criminal court.  A Class B felony carries a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison.  Secondly, that 60 years breaks down into 40 years initial confinement and 20 years extended supervision.  Frequently, in the case of an adult killing another adult in reckless circumstances, this is the charged offense.

What is the case involves an unborn child?

There’s a second version of first-degree reckless homicide that carries a Class B felony penalty.  Section 940.02(1m) of the Wisconsin Statutes deals with reckless homicide involving unborn children.  The law indicates:

“Whoever recklessly causes the death of an unborn child under circumstances that show utter disregard for the life of that unborn child, the woman who is pregnant with that unborn child or another” is guilty of the offense.”

Cases involving the death of an unborn child frequently end up in the media.  These cases get the most views and clicks for the media, so it’s likely if your case involves an unborn child, there will be media attention.  Media attention certainly shouldn’t change how your defense attorney handles your case.  Unfortunately, some criminal defense lawyers have not handled high-profile murder cases and cannot handle the attention.  Finally, at Meyer Van Severen, S.C. we regularly defend cases covered in the news.

Important definitions.

All criminal offenses in Wisconsin include elements that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  An element is a part of an offense.  If the government cannot prove one of the elements of the offense, you certainly cannot be convicted of the offense.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1020 describes the elements of first degree reckless homicide:

  • Firstly, the defendant caused the death of the victim; and
  • Secondly, the defendant caused the death by criminally reckless conduct; and
  • Thirdly, the circumstances of the defendant’s conduct showed utter disregard for human life.

The term cause means the defendant’s act was a substantial factor in producing the death.

Criminally reckless conduct requires the government prove three more elements:

  • The conduct of the defendant created a risk of death or great bodily harm to the victim;
  • The risk of death or great bodily harm was unreasonable and substantial; and finally
  • The defendant was aware that his conduct created the unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm.

To determine whether the circumstances showed utter disregard for human life, jurors are instructed to consider the following factors: what the defendant was doing, why the defendant was engaged in that conduct, how dangerous the conduct was, how obvious the danger was, whether the conduct showed any regard for life, and all other facts and circumstances relating to the conduct.  If the government cannot prove utter disregard for human life, frequently they will charge second degree reckless homicide.

Finally, first-degree reckless homicide involving adults and children differ based on the victim.  Cases involving an unborn child require that the defendant’s conduct showed utter disregard for the victim, the unborn child, the life of the woman who is pregnant with the unborn child, or another human.


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First-degree reckless homicide involving drugs

Certainly not all first-degree reckless homicide cases carry Class B felony penalties.  In certain cases involving drugs, this murder charge carries with it a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and/or a $100,000.00 fine (Class C felony).  Frequently criminal defense attorneys and the media refer to these cases as len bias homicides.

That version of first-degree reckless homicide has four elements that must be proven at trial.  They include:

  1. The defendant delivered a substance;
  2. The substance was a controlled substance;
  3. The defendant knew or believed that the substance was the controlled substance; and
  4. The victim used the substance alleged to have been delivered by the defendant and died as a result of that use.

Finally, the defendant isn’t required to have actually delivered the substance directly to the victim.  Additionally, if possession of the substance knew that the substance was transferred once before it was used by the victim, each person who transferred possession of the substance is deemed to have delivered it.

Frequently len bias homicide cases involve search warrants for homes, cell phones, and other media.  Work on these cases requires law enforcement to dig through records to piece together where the drugs came from.  Certainly a lengthier investigation allows a good criminal defense attorney the opportunity to pick more holes in the case.


A first degree reckless homicide scene.
First degree reckless homicide charges carry serious felony penalties. Contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. at (414) 270-0202 for help.

How do we defend my murder case?

Firstly, we’ll take a look at the criminal complaint in your case.  Does the government have enough in that document to charge you and satisfy its burden at the initial appearance?  And then, does that give us enough to challenge the case at a preliminary hearing?  If you’re innocent, or if you’re dead set on proceeding to trial, perhaps requiring some testimony at the prelim could help your case.

Next, we’ll almost certainly have some kind of search warrant in your first degree reckless homicide case.  We need to review that search warrant.  Is the affidavit in support of the search warrant sufficient to show there’s probable cause evidence of a crime will be located?  If not, perhaps a challenge to that search is in order.  If their search violated the constitution, there’s a chance we can keep that evidence out of trial.

Finally, did you give a statement to police?  We’ll examine the circumstances of that statement.  Were you coerced into giving a statement?  And, importantly, did they read your Miranda warnings?  These important questions will determine exactly how a trial goes.  Certainly your defense is stronger without a confession.  We’ll do everything we can to keep any statements that may hurt you out of trial.

Finally, why should I hire Meyer Van Severen, S.C. for my homicide case?

At Meyer Van Severen, S.C. we strive to provide you the best homicide defense.  Murder charges are serious, and your criminal defense attorney needs to take your case seriously.  Constitutional issues, like whether search warrants are valid and whether Miranda rights were property recited are important.  And spotting those issues is crucial to provide you the best criminal defense representation.

Remember: our criminal defense attorneys dedicate 100% of their time to cases just like yours.  It’s our opinion that such dedication to criminal defense renders a better result for you.  Call us immediately at (414) 270-0202 to start fighting your case.