New York Voluntary Manslaughter Laws

Manslaughter is a form of homicide -- conduct which causes the death of a person -- committed when a defendant recklessly causes death or, with an intent to cause serious physical injury, causes death. For example, someone arrested for drunk driving after causing an accident in which a passenger or another motorist is killed would also likely be charged with involuntary manslaughter. But where there was no initial (or premeditated) intent to kill someone, such as so-called "heat of the moment" crimes, such a homicide may be charged as voluntary manslaughter.

New York Voluntary Manslaughter Laws: The Basics

While some states refer to these separate offenses as involuntary or voluntary manslaughter, the New York Penal Code identifies them as manslaughter in the second degree and first degree, respectively. The following table lists additional details about New York's first degree (voluntary) manslaughter laws.

Statutes

New York Penal Code Section 125.20

New York Penal Code Section 125.22 (aggravated charge)

Statutory Definition of First Degree Manslaughter

A person is guilty of first-degree manslaughter when he or she:

  • With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, causes the death of such person or a third person;
  • With intent to cause the death of another person, causes the death of such person or a third person while "under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance;"
  • Commits an unjustified abortional act upon a female pregnant for more than 24 weeks which causes her death; or
  • With intent to cause physical injury to a person less than 11 years old, a defendant 18 years old or more "recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of serious physical injury to such person and thereby causes the death of such person."
Statutory Definition of Aggravated First Degree Manslaughter

First-degree manslaughter is elevated to aggravated first-degree manslaughter in either of the following two instances:

  • With intent to cause serious physical injury to a police officer or peace officer engaged in the course of his or her official duties, the defendant causes the death of such officer or another police officer or peace officer - and he or she knew or reasonably should have known that such victim was a police officer or peace officer; or
  • With intent to cause the death of a police officer or peace officer, the defendant engages in the conduct described in the immediately preceding section while "under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance."
Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter Charges
  • Self-defense
  • Defense of another person
  • Infancy (for persons less than 14 years of age)
  • Mental disease or defect
Penalties and Sentences

Class B felony; 5-25 yrs. in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 (10 to 30 yrs. in prison for an aggravated offense)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

The Meaning of 'Serious Physical Injury'

Section 10.00(10) of the Penal Code defines "serious physical injury" as physical injury which "creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ."

The prosecution may establish a defendant's requisite intent to cause serious physical injury through evidence such as threats to injure the victim, the number and location of blows, gunshots or stab wounds, or the fact that the defendant continued to attack after incapacitating the victim. Because a defendant's subjective intent is often difficult to establish, a prosecutor may submit first-degree manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of intentional murder.

New York Voluntary Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources

Get Free Case Review

If you are accused of committing a homicide you face some very serious consequences. The next steps you take should be the product of careful consideration and sound advice. Contact a competent local attorney for a free initial evaluation to discuss how the problem can be dealt with before the heat of passion leads to more trouble.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.