NY Penal Law Article 125 – Homicide Related Offenses: Part II – “Manslaughter” 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 Homicide or Murder.

Penal Law Sec. 125.12.  Vehicular Manslaughter in the Second Degree.

            A person is guilty of vehicular manslaughter in the second degree when he or she causes the death of another person, and either (in sum and substance):

  1. Operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired by drugs; or
  2. Operates a motor vehicle weighing more than 18,000 lbs containing flammable, radioactive or explosive materials while impaired by alcohol, the death is caused by the dangerous materials, and the impairment causes the driver to operate the vehicle in a manner that causes the death.

Vehicular manslaughter in the second degree is a class D felony, i.e., up to 7 years in prison.

Penal Law Sec. 125.13.  Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree.

            A person is guilty of vehicular manslaughter in the first degree when he or she commits the crime of vehicular manslaughter in the second degree, and either:

  1. Has a BAC of .18 or greater;
  2. (a) 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.

Vehicular manslaughter in the first degree is a class C felony, i.e., up to 15 years in prison.

Penal Law Sec. 125.15.  Manslaughter in the Second Degree.

            A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when:

  1. He recklessly causes the death of another person; or
  2. He commits upon a female an abortional act which causes her death, unless such abortional act is justifiable pursuant to 125.05(3); or
  3. He intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide.

Manslaughter in the second degree is a class C felony, i.e., up to 15 years in prison.

“Recklessly” is defined in Penal Law Sec. 15.05(3) as: A person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists.  The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.  A person who creates such a risk but is unaware thereof solely by reason of voluntary intoxication also acts recklessly with respect thereto.

Example: Our speeder from above was headed home from a bar, and intoxicated, when he decided to flee from the police cruiser attempting to initiate a traffic stop and ultimately runs down the pedestrian in the crosswalk of the intersection.  

Penal Law Sec. 125.20.  Manslaughter in the First Degree.

            A person is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree when:

  1. With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes death of such person or of a third person; or
  2. With intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person under circumstances which do not constitute murder because he acts under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance, as defined Sec. 125.25(a); or
  3. He performs an abortion upon a female pregnant for more than 24 weeks which causes her death, unless such abortional act is justifiable pursuant to 125.05(3); or
  4. Being 18 years or older and with intent to cause physical injury to a person less than 11 years old, he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of serious physical injury to such person and thereby causes the death of such person.

Manslaughter in the first degree is a class B felony, i.e., up to 25 years in prison.

Example: class example of subdivision 1 is the “heat of passion” homicide, wherein a husband immediately reacts violently upon discovering his wife in bed with another man.

Penal Law Sec. 125.21.  Aggravated Manslaughter in the First Degree.

            A person is guilty of aggravated manslaughter in the first degree when:

  1. With intent to causes serious physical injury to 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, he or she causes the death of such officer or another police officer or peace officer; or
  2. With intent to 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, he or she causes the death of such officer or another police officer or peace officer under circumstances which do not constitute murder because he acts under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance, as defined Sec. 125.25(a).

Aggravated manslaughter in the first degree 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 of Catalano& Carpenter LLP today at (845) 454-1919 to schedule a free consultation.