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Crime of Passion Law Indiana

A crime of passion refers to the commission of a crime, often murder or attempted murder, while in a heightened emotional frame of mind. It is a result of provocation by either the victim of the crime or by another person acting with the victim. For instance, when a person walks in on their spouse cheating on them and, in a rage, kills one or both of them. The term ‘crime of passion’ often ends up having a tempering effect, unintended perhaps, as it tends to delineate between cold-blooded killings that are intentional and involve a degree of planning and ruthlessness, and killings that occur without forethought, in the heat of the moment under aggravating circumstances.

Crime of Passion Laws

In the state of Indiana, a distinction is drawn between different types of homicides, viz. murder, involuntary manslaughter, and voluntary manslaughter. All homicides are felonies but the level of a felony varies.

Murder is the intentional or calculated killing of another individual. Involuntary manslaughter is the accidental or reckless killing of another individual during the commission of specified types of offenses such as a battery or driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In contrast, voluntary manslaughter is the intentional or purposeful killing of another individual but while operating under the influence of ‘sudden heat’.

Indiana Crime of Passion Law
Sudden Heat

Under the Indiana Crime of Passion Law, the term ‘sudden heat’ is not defined. Generally speaking, sudden heat or heat of passion, refers to an extreme emotional state of mind brought on by sudden and grave provocation. Any action or situation that evokes rage, anger, intense hatred, or terror at the moment might be regarded as sufficient provocation.

The length of time between the provocation and the crime is crucial. A homicide committed in reaction to provocation is suggestive of the fact that there are circumstances under which even an otherwise calm, reasonable and morally upright person, can be pushed to the point of taking another human being’s life. But a lapse of time such as would be enough for a reasonable person to calm down and regain self-control is indicative of premeditation and would render the homicide murder and not voluntary manslaughter.

Punishment & Penalties for Crimes of Passion

Under Indiana law, a homicide committed under ‘sudden heat’ is a mitigating factor and the resulting charge of voluntary manslaughter is classified as a Level 2 felony. It is a less serious charge than murder, but more severe than involuntary manslaughter which is a Level 5 felony.

If a person is convicted of a Level 2 felony, then they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. The maximum prison term is 30 years. Further, the court may voluntarily consider advisory sentencing guidelines that prescribe a term of 17 years and six months. The accused may also be subject to a fine not exceeding USD 10,000.

Criminal Records Indiana
Civil Action for Wrongful Death

The family of a victim of voluntary manslaughter may file a civil suit against the accused of wrongful death. The suit must be brought within a period of two years. The court may award damages to cover medical, legal, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of wages resulting from the death of the victim. If the victim was an adult unmarried person with no dependents, then the court may also include damages for loss of love and companionship which damages shall not exceed USD 300,000. The court will not award punitive damages or damages for mental trauma suffered or for grief.

In conclusion, a homicide resulting from a crime of passion is not treated as murder but as voluntary manslaughter which might, in addition to criminal charges, invite a civil claim for damages.

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