Manslaughter in New York
Under New York Law, Manslaughter is defined as the killing of a human being without premeditation or malice. Any person who engages in an action that results in the death of another person may find themselves at risk of prosecution for manslaughter.
Manslaughter in the First Degree.
A person may find themselves charged with Manslaughter in the first degree if they try to injure another person seriously and ultimately kill them without having intended to do so. Killings that occur during the heat of passion without planning and forethought can also be charged as Manslaughter in the first degree.
Manslaughter in the Second Degree.
Manslaughter in the Second Degree occurs when an individual does not intend to cause the death of another person but acts in such a reckless and dangerous manner that death does occur.
Someone may find themselves charged with Manslaughter in the Second Degree if they perform dangerous actions such as throwing furniture off their balcony without intending to kill anyone and someone does die because of their actions.
The Legal Definition of Manslaughter
N.Y. Penal Law § 125.20 and N.Y. Penal Law § 125.15 set out the legal definition of Manslaughter under New York Law. Manslaughter is a felony under state criminal laws.
The “elements” of Manslaughter are the things that the prosecutor must prove in order for you to be found guilty. In New York, there are two different degrees of Manslaughter. Manslaughter in the First Degree, and Manslaughter in the Second Degree.
Manslaughter in the First Degree under New York state law any of the following must be true:
- A person causes the death of another person through violence with intent to cause serious physical injury
- A person intentionally causes the death of another person but was motivated to do so through extreme emotional disturbance.
- A person who is 18 years or older causes the death of a child younger than 11 years old through recklessly engaging in conduct that has a grave risk of severe injury.
Manslaughter in the Second Degree under New York state law any of the following must be true:
- A person recklessly causes the death of another person.
- A person intentionally causes or aids in the suicide of another person.
Let’s delve a bit more deeply into these elements of the crime of assault to understand their meaning better.
Element #1: The Death of Another
In both manslaughter crimes, the death of another person is involved. Killing in manslaughter cases does not have to be deliberate. In one landmark case, People v. Pearson, a man threatened two women with a gun pointing it at one of them. The other woman tried to wrestle the gun from his hand, and it discharged accidentally killing her.
The court found that intent was not an element of Manslaughter in the First Degree. Someone who gets into an argument with a group of people and tries to injure them through violence but who ends up unintentionally killing an unknown bystander could likely be convicted of Manslaughter in the First Degree.
The absence of an intent element in many Manslaughter cases makes such cases difficult to defend which is why you should consult with a skilled defense attorney if you or a loved one are charged with manslaughter.
Element #2: Recklessness
Recklessness is a factor in Manslaughter in the Second Degree cases. In a recent case, People v. Santiago, an adult recklessly covered the nose and mouth of an infant to force it to sleep. The infant died of suffocation. The adult, in this case, acted recklessly by blocking the flow of air to the child.
It does not matter for the purposes of Manslaughter in the Second Degree that he only intended to lull the child to sleep. The mere act of covering someone’s nose and mouth and blocking the flow of air is so reckless as to amount to Manslaughter in the Second Degree if the victim dies.
Element #3: Extreme Emotional Disturbance
Extreme Emotional Disturbance is a factor in Manslaughter in the First Degree cases. In a recent case, Smith v. Perez, a young woman began a relationship with an older man who supported her financially. Eventually, he began demanding sexual relations for favors which increased in intensity.
On one night while with a friend at his residence, she resisted intercourse with the older man and strangled him with a pillowcase during the fight. She was found guilty of Manslaughter in the First Degree. In all cases, the action was not the result of coolly calculated actions. Manslaughter applies to instances of recklessness or killing in the heat of passion and emotional disturbance.
What are some related crimes?
Charges of murder and other associated homicide crimes may be brought in addition to, or in place of, charges for Manslaughter. These other related offenses include:
Related Offense #1: Murder
The definition of Murder is the intentional killing of another with planning and forethought. In a recent case, People v. Dashnaw, an individual stabbed another person 10 times resulting in their death and took her property. Murder is one of the most serious of all crimes, and it carries with it the possibility of life imprisonment.
Related Offense #2: Criminally Negligent Homicide
The definition of Criminally Negligent Homicide is causing the death of another person by extreme negligence. In a landmark case, People v. Alston, an individual decided to play Russian Roulette with several other people. He loaded a revolver with a live round and while playing the game shot one of the participants in the face killing them instantly.
While he had no intention to kill the participant his participation in the activity was so incredibly negligent that he was found guilty of Criminally Negligent Homicide.
Related Offense #3: Vehicular Manslaughter
The definition of Vehicular Manslaughter is the reckless killing of another person while using a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or other influences, or doing so while knowing you were unable or unsafe to drive.
In one case, People v. Hart, a man consumed a half liter of alcohol, placed his young child on an unregistered all-terrain vehicle and drove it on the highway without a helmet. He crashed, and the child died. Because his activity was incredibly unsafe and involved a vehicle, he was found guilty of Vehicular Manslaughter.
What are some of the essential and impactful cases?
There are several noteworthy cases which can help clarify Manslaughter charges in New York.
- One such case is People v. Kennedy, in this case, a man was attacked, and he retaliated with excessive and disproportionate force resulting in the death of his initial attacker. While he was originally the victim, his excessive response to the aggression resulted in his assailant’s death, and he was convicted of Manslaughter.
- In another case, a child was shaken to death by a caregiver. The court found that the activity was so reckless that even though the caregiver did not intend to kill the child, the action was legally Manslaughter resulting in a conviction.
These cases help expand our understanding of Manslaughter as they shine a light on the fact that intent is really not a factor. Even if you do not intend to kill another person if you behave aggressively towards them and fatally injure them or if you act in such a reckless manner that you kill them you can be found guilty of Manslaughter. As with any homicide, crime Manslaughter is an extremely serious crime and carries with it very heavy penalties including significant jail time. If you or your loved one has been accused of Manslaughter, you face a life-altering trial and should immediately consult
with a skilled criminal defense attorney to ensure you have the strongest possible defense.
What agencies detect, investigate, and prosecute this crime?
Manslaughter is investigated and prosecuted by several agencies. Depending on what occurs and who is involved representatives from the local police force, the State’s Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Office of the Attorney General may be involved.
Manslaughter is a serious crime to be accused of and both state and federal prosecutors spare no expense in prosecuting this crime because of many different agencies and prosecutors may be involved in Manslaughter cases it is imperative to have the best possible criminal defense.
Our attorneys understand Manslaughter charges and how to handle communications with government investigators. You should never speak with an investigator without having first spoken with an attorney. If you or a loved one have been accused of Manslaughter, we can help you prepare your case
What are the statutory penalties if you are convicted of this crime?
Manslaughter is a felony. The potential penalties are incredibly severe and can include up to 15 to 25 years in prison as well as a mandatory minimum of 1 to 5 years in prison. Individuals may also be liable for wrongful death civil actions and therefore face the prospect of financial ruin and spending a quarter of their life behind bars.
Anyone accused of Manslaughter finds themselves in a difficult position and must do everything in their power to protect their freedom. This includes consulting a skilled criminal defense attorney to advocate on their behalf.
In Manslaughter trials, a successful defense can be the difference between spending decades in jail or remaining free. It is therefore important to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney such as the ones at our firm.
What are some of the additional consequences of being convicted?
You will also face serious additional consequences if you are convicted of Manslaughter. Beyond facing decades in jail individuals who do not have legal status in the United States may be deported. Even individuals who possess a Green Card may have their Green Card revoked and may be subject to deportation from the United States.
Manslaughter convictions are very serious and follow individuals for their entire lives. Individuals are barred from voting rights while in prison and while on parole. You will be ineligible for enlistment in the US Armed Forces.
If you are in prison for more than 15 months, a Foster care agency may seek termination of your parental rights. You will be prohibited from possessing a firearm indefinitely. These are all very serious consequences, and if you want to protect your rights, you must do everything possible to fight a Manslaughter conviction.
Legal Defenses to Manslaughter
Nobody wants to be in jail or pay a fine—and nobody wants a conviction for Manslaughter on their record. People may start to associate you with this crime, even though they do not understand the specifics of your case. There are several powerful legal defenses you can apply to fight these charges they include:
Defense #1: Self Defense
One of the defenses for Manslaughter is self-defense. Self-defense is using reasonable violent behavior to defend one’s self from an aggressor. In People v. Vargas, a Manslaughter in the first-degree conviction was set aside when it was found the defendant had acted in self-defense.
Defense #2: Insufficient Evidence
The second defense for Manslaughter is insufficient evidence. A prosecutor must bring sufficient evidence to convince a jury that it is beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
In People v. Roth, it was determined that evidence a driver had operated an all-terrain vehicle too quickly and without wearing a helmet did not rise to the level of proof required for Manslaughter.
Defense #3: Lack of Negligence
The third defense for Manslaughter is the lack of negligence. A person’s negligence must rise to a criminal level to be culpable. In People v. Wells, a hunter shot at what he believed to be a fox in the distance after his son exclaimed that there was a fox across the pond. It was actually a person, and he killed him.
It was found that because he was hunting and had shot at what he reasonably believed to be a fox, he was not criminally negligent and therefore could not be charged with Manslaughter.
Call us for help.
Manslaughter is a serious crime for which anyone accused faces considerable jail time. Our attorneys understand Manslaughter charges and how best to defend you or your loved ones if you are accused.
Our attorneys can handle everything from representation during questioning and interrogation, to negotiating with the prosecutor’s office, to making recommendations, and developing trial strategies. Defending against any criminal charge is challenging and having the help of a skilled attorney can often be the difference between freedom and jail time.
If you have any questions about Manslaughter or wish to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled criminal defense attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact us.
We have local criminal law offices in your area ready to handle your case.