In October, 2021, news broke of a shooting on the set of a new film entitled Rust. The shooting occurred as an apparent accident when a prop firearm discharged, taking the life of a cinematographer named Halyna Hutchins. While tragic, this accident was hardly unprecedented. Production accidents are a blight that the business of moviemaking has never quite been able to shake. Most infamously; Brandon Lee was killed in a similar accidental discharge incident while filming the 1994 cult classic The Crow. But dozens of industry craftspeople have suffered similar fates. Ms. Hutchins’s tragic passing would have likely never left industry circles if the person holding the weapon wasn’t internationally-renowned film and TV star Alec Baldwin. New Mexico prosecutors are set to charge Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter. But what does that mean, exactly? Today we’ll be unpacking the concept of negligent homicide, both here and on our YouTube channel.
Negligent homicide is a crime resulting from the death of another person through careless or reckless behavior. It can result from unintentional action, such as operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. But it can also occur as a result of intentional action, such as leaving a child in an unsafe environment. In both cases, negligence is defined by disregarding a duty to take reasonable care and caution that could have prevented the victim’s death. Negligent homicide charges range from misdemeanors to felonies depending on the severity of the negligent act and any mitigating circumstances. It’s important to keep in mind as well that negligent homicide laws and penalties vary from state to state. The penalties for negligent homicide range from probation to jail time and/or fines. In addition, civil lawsuits may be filed against those deemed legally responsible for damages caused by their actions.
In New Mexico, involuntary manslaughter is a class four felony carrying a maximum sentence of eighteen months in prison and a five-thousand dollar fine. Given the irregular nature of the crime it’s highly unlikely we’ll see state prosecutors pursue the maximum penalty. New Mexico authorities have already agreed to a plea bargain with assistant director David Halls, who was in charge of safety on the set of Rust. Halls will plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon. We here at Malloy Law Offices extend our sincere condolences to Ms. Hutchins’ family and hope that the law is applied fairly and justly, regardless of Mr. Baldwin’s celebrity status and the increased public profile of the case.