NY Penal Law Article 125 – Homicide Related Offenses: Part I – “Homicide” Specific Offenses

August 4, 2014

Homicide in New York State is generally defined as conduct which causes the death of a person or of an unborn child with which the female has been pregnant for more than 24 weeks (6 months).  See NY Penal Law Sec. 125.00. Because there are a number of ways that such an act can be committed, the term “homicide” encompasses a vast array of more specific offenses and mental states, i.e., intent.

These statutes can be complex and difficult to understand or differentiate from each other.  An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to determine whether the charge is the appropriate one and whether the charging instrument is sufficient.  In cases of this magnitude, the significance of that step cannot be overstated.

Because the statutes of Penal Law Article 125 are complex, I have attempted, where appropriate, to paraphrase the statute to make it easier to digest.  But because of that, none of the statutes quoted or referenced in this article should be considered complete nor should they be relied upon as legal advice.  As always, and even more importantly when it comes to charges of homicide, murder or manslaughter, it is imperative that you discuss your case with a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately.

Due to the overwhelming information that would need to be included in an article that covered all of the homicide offenses in one, I have separated the offenses into related groups for ease of reference.

Click on the term for the corresponding articles relating to Manslaughter or Murder.

Penal Law Sec. 125.10. Criminally Negligent Homicide.

             A person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide when, with criminal negligence, he causes the death of another person.

            Criminally negligent homicide is a class E felony, i.e., up to 4 years in prison.

            “Criminal negligence” is defined in Penal Law Sec. 15.05(4): A person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstances exist.  The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

            Example: Defendant operates vehicle at a high rate of speed approaching an intersection absent any visual obstructions; defendant runs a red light at the intersection and strikes and kills a pedestrian crossing the intersection.  

Penal Law Sec. 125.11.  Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide.

            A person is guilty of aggravated criminally negligent homicide when, with criminal negligence, he or she causes the death of a police officer or peace officer where such officer was in the course of performing his or her official duties and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that such victim was a police officer or peace officer.

            Aggravated criminally negligent homicide is a class C felony, i.e., up to 15 years in prison.

            Example: In the example above, the defendant is instead fleeing the police who are in immediate pursuit, and the pedestrian is instead a police cruiser and armed officers establishing a roadblock; the defendant rams the police cruiser, which in turn kills a nearby officer.

Penal Law Sec. 125.14.  Aggravated Vehicular Homicide.

            A person is guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide when he or she engages in reckless driving as defined in VTL Sec. 1212, and commits the crime of vehicular manslaughter in the second degree (PL 125.12), and either:

  1. Has a BAC of .18 or greater;
  2. Knows or has reason to know that their license/privileges from another state are suspended for a conviction in that state which would constitute a DWI in NY, or (b) their NY license is suspended as a result of a chemical test refusal or NY DWI conviction;
  3. Has been convicted of any provision of VTL 1192 (DWI or DWAI) within the preceding 10 years;
  4. Causes the death of more than 1 person;
  5. Has previously been convicted of any violation of Penal Law Article 125 or Article 120 (Assault and related offenses) involving the operation of a motor vehicle; or
  6. Commits the offense while operating a vehicle with a child age 15 or younger in the vehicle and causes the death of such child.Aggravated vehicular homicide is a class B felony, i.e., up to 25 years in prison

It is a gross understatement to say that any homicide, manslaughter or murder charge is serious.  A conviction of any one of these offenses can ruin the lives of everyone it touches, the defendants’ as well as that of their family member’s and friend’s.  If you are someone you love is facing such a charge, call the criminal defense firm ofCatalano& Carpenter LLP today at (845) 454-1919 to schedule a free consultation.