Aggravated manslaughter is one of the most serious crimes you can face in Cape May. If you face charges for manslaughter or aggravated manslaughter, you could potentially lose your freedom for decades if you are convicted. In many other cases, the possibility of using aggravated manslaughter charges as reduced charges for murder can actually save you from spending the rest of your life in prison.
Charges for aggravated manslaughter are complex, and you should never face these charges in court without the help of an experienced Cape May aggravated manslaughter attorney. To schedule a free, confidential consultation on the charges you face, contact The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing defendants accused of serious criminal charges. For help with your case, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.
Charges for Aggravated Manslaughter vs. Murder in Cape May
In New Jersey, there are 3 different types of charges for “criminal homicide”: murder, manslaughter, and “death by auto or vessel.” Murder is the most serious form of homicide and covers intentional killings. Death by auto is commonly called “vehicular manslaughter” or “vehicular homicide” and is treated as a separate offense.
Manslaughter is a complex crime because it has two levels of offense, and the crime of manslaughter can be charged by itself or as a form of reduced charges for murder. If you cause the death of another person under circumstances that are clearly manslaughter, you will usually face direct charges for manslaughter. However, if you are charged with murder, you and your defense attorney may be able to argue that the charges should be reduced to manslaughter, potentially saving you years of prison time. Manslaughter is defined under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-4.
The basic manslaughter offense consists of a killing that would be charged as murder but was committed “in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation.” If you were provoked by intense emotions, a heated argument, or other circumstances, your intent to kill the other person may be negated. Killing someone in the heat of passion is not as intentional as murder and results in lowered penalties.
Aggravated manslaughter is a more severe crime, but it still does not necessarily involve the same level of intent as murder charges. Aggravated manslaughter covers two situations:
- Killing someone “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life,” sometimes called a “depraved-heart murder”
- Killing someone while fleeing the police
To be convicted of killing someone with “extreme indifference,” the police and prosecutors do not need to prove that you intended for the person to die. Instead, they must prove that you cared so little for the victim that you should be held criminally responsible for their death.
Manslaughter involving flight from police is typically charged against people who cause car accidents during high-speed chases or when someone takes a hostage or puts others in danger by fleeing from police. This is a “strict liability” offense, meaning that there is no need to prove any intent; if someone dies while you are fleeing, you are held responsible under this statute
Note that none of these manslaughter offenses involve intentional killing; that is the key factor that separates manslaughter from murder.
Penalties for Aggravated Manslaughter in Cape May
Aggravated manslaughter carries one of the highest penalties of any crime in Cape May. The highest level of crime in New Jersey is a “first degree indictable crime,” which typically carries 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000. Aggravated manslaughter is a first degree crime, but its penalties are modified.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-4(c) sets out three different penalties for each type of manslaughter crime:
- Simple manslaughter is a second degree crime punished by 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
- Aggravated manslaughter involving fleeing from police is a first degree crime with the standard penalties of 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000.
- Aggravated manslaughter involving extreme indifference to human life is a first degree crime with prison time upgraded to 10-30 years.
Compared to murder, these penalties are lower. Murder – that is intentional killing – includes at least 30 years of prison, up to life. During those 30 years, the defendant is not eligible for parole or early release for good behavior.
With manslaughter charges, 30 years is the outside maximum penalty authorized by the statute. In some cases, the judge may be willing to deviate from the norms and give you lower penalties if “mitigating circumstances” warrant a lower penalty. Reducing the charges from aggravated manslaughter to simple manslaughter can also save you the potential of at least a decade behind bars.
Call Our Cape May Aggravated Manslaughter Defense Lawyers for Help with Your Criminal Charges
If you or a loved one was charged with aggravated manslaughter in Cape May, it is vital to talk to an attorney about your charges and to hire an experienced, zealous Cape May criminal defense lawyer to handle your case. The Cape May aggravated manslaughter defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych offer free legal consultations to help you understand your case and the potential penalties you face. To schedule your free consultation, call our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.