There are two degrees of Reckless Homicide in Wisconsin. They are First Degree Reckless Homicide and Second Degree Reckless Homicide. They simply vary in the severity of the acts alleged against a Defendant. But they both involve the taking of a life of another Human Being by criminally reckless behavior. The degree of Reckless Homicide as defined in Wisconsin Law is determined by the facts and circumstances of each particular case.
First Degree Reckless Homicide is defined in section 940.02(1) of the Criminal Code of Wisconsin as committed by one who recklessly causes the death of another Human Being by conduct that show utter disregard for human life. The elements that the State must prove to convict on this charge are:
- The Defendant caused the death of another person.
- “Cause” means that the Defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in producing the death.
- The Defendant caused the death by “criminally reckless” conduct.
- “Criminally reckless conduct” means that the conduct created a risk of death or bodily harm to another person; the risk of death or great bodily harm was unreasonable and substantial; and, the Defendant was aware that his/her conduct created the unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm.
- The circumstances of the Defendant’s conduct showed utter disregard for Human life.
Self-defense clearly is not a factor in a Reckless Homicide charge. The State does not allege an intentional act, merely behavior that could be seen as reckless and likely to result in death. The charge of Second Degree Reckless Homicide has the same element as First Degree, but the State does not need to allege or prove the “utter disregard for Human life” element.