EFFECTIVE/PUBLICATION DATE: 09/18/87
20 CFR 404.305(b)
The claimant filed an application for child's insurance benefits on his deceased father's earnings record. Since the claimant had been convicted in Ohio of voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of his father, a question has been raised as to whether he is precluded from becoming entitled to those benefits under § 404.305(b) of Regulations No. 4.
Section 404.305(b) of Regulations No. 4 provides, in pertinent part, that --
For certain homicides, e.g., first or second degree murder, the Social Security Administration (SSA) presumes intent, because by definition, these crimes involve intent. However, voluntary manslaughter may or may not be defined as involving intent; therefore, SSA establishes no presumption of intent. Instead, SSA bases its decision as to entitlement or nonentitlement on whether the State where the conviction occurred treats voluntary manslaughter as an intentional homicide. If State law is inconclusive, development of the facts related to intent is required.
In Ohio, voluntary manslaughter is a felonious homicide. However, a person can be convicted of voluntary manslaughter if he or she "knowingly" caused the death of another regardless of whether he or she "intended" to cause that death. Section 2903.03 of the Ohio Criminal Code, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2903.03 (Page 1984 Supp.), provides as follows:
See also Travelers Ins. Co. v. Gray, 306 N.E.2d 189, 191 (Ohio Common Pleas 1973) ("An intent to kill is not an essential element of manslaughter either in Ohio or at common law.")
Ohio's civil statute prohibiting certain persons from benefiting from the death of another has been amended to include persons who have been convicted of voluntary manslaughter. The statute in question provides as follows:
Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2105.19(A) (Page 1984 Supp.) (emphasis added). When this disqualification statute does not apply, a person challenging the beneficiary's rights bears the common law burden of proving that the killing was intentional. Huff v. Union Fidelity Ins. Co., 470 N.E.2d 236, 238 (Ohio App. 1984). However, when the would-be beneficiary has been convicted of one of the designated felony homicides, there is no need to prove intent. Thus, the claimant, by virtue of his conviction of voluntary manslaughter, would be barred from receiving any survivor's benefits available to him under Ohio law, even though intent to kill is not an essential element of the criminal offense itself.
This raises the question of whether SSA may rely on the cited Ohio civil code provision and determine that the claimant intended to kill his father without developing the facts surrounding the killing. The Ohio legislature has included voluntary manslaughter among those crimes which automatically bar succession to the deceased's property or receipt of financial benefits available because of the deceased's death. Therefore, SSA would be justified in concluding that the Ohio legislature has made a judgment that, for the purpose of implementing the well-established principle that one should not be allowed to profit from intentionally causing another's death, voluntary manslaughter is to be treated as an intentional killing. Since § 404.305(b) of Regulations No. 4 has the same purpose, see 47 Fed. Reg. 42097, 42098 (Sept. 24, 1982), there is no reason why SSA could not deny survivor's benefits on the basis of Ohio Rev. Code § 2105.19 without developing the facts relative to the slaying. Although there appears to be no case precisely on point, a Federal district court has held that a widow convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of her husband cannot be denied widow's insurance benefits when the State where the conviction occurred would not prohibit the widow from succeeding to the deceased's property. Phillips v. Gardner, No. C-45-D-67 (M.D.N.C. Oct. 27, 1967) (unpublished decision) (excerpted in 1 West's Social Security Claims and Procedures, § 472 at 662 (1983)). Involuntary manslaughter presents an easier question, since involuntary manslaughter is presumptively a nonintentional homicide. See footnote 2 below. Nonetheless, the case does support considering the State's civil laws as well as its criminal code.
Additionally, § 404.305(b) of Regulations No. 4 does not specify that SSA rely only on a State's criminal code in making the intent determination. While the Ohio legislature has not made intent an essential element of voluntary manslaughter, this does not mean that intent may not be an element at all. In this regard, it is observed that while the courts have differed on whether intent is an essential element of voluntary manslaughter, see 40 Am Jur 2d § 56, the intention to take life distinguishes voluntary from involuntary manslaughter at common law. See Wadsworth, supra; State v. Schaeffer, 117 N.E. 220 (Ohio 1917). Thus, no inconsistency is found in Ohio regarding voluntary manslaughter as an intentional killing for probate code purposes while requiring no proof of intent for criminal purposes.
In conclusion, SSA would be justified in denying the claimant child's insurance benefits based on the conclusion that he was convicted of a felonious and intentional homicide in the stabbing death of his father, the deceased worker. The conclusion that he intentionally killed his father is justified because Ohio treats voluntary manslaughter as an intentional felonious homicide for purposes of determining whether persons who kill are entitled to benefit from the deaths of their victims.
 "Knowingly" means awareness of the probability that conduct will cause a certain result, or be of a certain nature, or that certain circumstances exist. "Intentionally" means having a specific intention either to cause a certain result or to engage in conduct of a certain nature regardless of what the offender intends to accomplish through that conduct. "Intentionally" equates with "purposely," "willfully," or "deliberately." See Committee Comment to H 511 following Ohio Rev. Code § 2901.22.
 SSA would not be justified in finding Ohio Rev. Code § 2105.19 dispositive of the intent issue if the statute also included convictions for killings which are presumptively unintentional, such as involuntary manslaughter. See Wadsworth v. Siek, 254 N.E.2d 738, 743 (Ohio Probate 1970); 40 Am Jur 2d § 70 (2d Ed. 1968).
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