What Happens if You Are Charged with Manslaughter Under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4?

Manslaughter is one of the most serious crimes a person can be charged with committing in the state of New Jersey.  If you are found guilty, you be incarcerated for decades.  The consequences of a manslaughter conviction are devastating for your freedom, your family, and your future.  You need to move quickly to begin reviewing your legal options and planning your defense.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Atlantic City Homicide Defense Attorneys

If you or one of your family members was arrested for manslaughter in Atlantic City or the surrounding area, it is absolutely critical that you are represented by a skilled New Jersey criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience handling felony homicide charges.  The Atlantic City manslaughter attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych have nearly half a century of experience representing defendants charged with aggravated manslaughter, reckless manslaughter, and other homicide crimes.  Our firm has established a reputation for building innovative defense strategies, and in many cases, we are able to obtain sentence reductions or case dismissals for our clients.

Call our law offices at (609) 616-4956 immediately to schedule a free legal consultation, including nights, weekends, and holidays.  We are available to make attorney visits to county jails and holding centers in the Atlantic City area.

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What Happens When You Are Arrested for Manslaughter in New Jersey?

After a person is arrested for manslaughter, he or she will have a court hearing called a first appearance where bail is set and the charges are reviewed.  If the defendant pleads not guilty, he or she will go through indictment, arraignment, and eventually, trial.  The prosecutor has the burden of proof, which means the prosecutor must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed all elements of the crime being alleged.

In a criminal case, the jury must return a unanimous verdict.  This means every juror must be in agreement about the defendant’s guilt.  If all jurors are not in agreement, it is called a “hung jury” and results in a mistrial.

Being charged with manslaughter does not mean that you have been charged with committing murder.  While both are forms of homicide, they have different definitions and different criminal penalties.

Homicide is a broad term that describes the taking of a human life.  Unlike murder, which involves committing a homicide intentionally, manslaughter is defined under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-4 as committing a homicide recklessly.  Therefore, it’s important for defendants to understand what recklessness means in a criminal law context.

Under New Jersey’s legal definitions, a person acts recklessly when they disregard a major, unjustifiable risk of death despite being aware of that risk.  The risk must be so serious and so obvious that any reasonable person would find the defendant’s actions to be a “gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would follow in the same situation,” meaning the defendant’s choices and actions were an extreme departure from the normal behavior that would be expected considering the circumstances.

A homicide is also charged as manslaughter when it would normally be charged as murder, but was “committed in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation.”  For this reason, manslaughter is sometimes described as a “crime of passion.”  To show that “reasonable provocation” existed, a criminal defense lawyer will attempt to prove that the defendant:

  • Was provoked.
  • Did not have sufficient time to “cool off” from the provocation.
  • Acted prior to cooling off (the homicide was not premeditated).

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Criminal Penalties for Felonies: Fines and Prison Sentencing

Most states divide offenses into two groups called misdemeanors and felonies.  New Jersey does not use these terms.  In New Jersey, disorderly persons offenses are roughly equivalent to misdemeanors, while felonies are called indictable crimes, indictable offenses, or simply crimes.  Crimes are further divided into four groups: fourth degree crimes, third degree crimes, second degree crimes, and first degree crimes.  The lower the number, the more serious the penalties for a conviction.

Manslaughter is a second degree crime under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-4(c).   New Jersey penalties for a second degree crime include a fine of up to $150,000 and a prison sentence ranging from five to 10 years.

Aggravated manslaughter, which is charged when the defendant causes death while fleeing the police or while acting “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life,” is a first degree crime and therefore carries greater penalties.  While the typical sentence for a first degree crime ranges from 10 to 20 years in prison, aggravated manslaughter carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years due to the severity of the offense.  The defendant can also receive criminal fines as high as $200,000.

Contact an Experienced Atlantic City, New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney

A manslaughter conviction can change the course of your life forever.  When the consequences are this devastating, it is absolutely imperative that you have highly skilled and experienced legal representation on your side protecting your rights and fighting the charges aggressively.  To arrange for a free legal consultation, call the New Jersey manslaughter lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 as soon as possible.  Your information will be kept confidential.

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