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New Jersey Manslaughter Defense Lawyer

In New Jersey, the crime of manslaughter covers many instances of unintentional killings, as opposed to murder charges for intentional killing.  This crime is not as serious as murder, but it is still one of the most serious offenses you could be charged with.  In many cases, however, getting charges reduced from murder to manslaughter can be the difference between spending the rest of your life in prison and seeing freedom again.

If you or a loved one was charged with murder or manslaughter in New Jersey, it is absolutely vital to call an attorney today.  The New Jersey manslaughter defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych offer free, confidential legal consultations to help you understand the charges you face and what options there are to fight the case against you.  For your free consultation, contact us today at (609) 616-4956.

The Differences Between Murder and Manslaughter

In New Jersey, there are 3 types of “criminal homicide”: murder, manslaughter, and death by auto or vessel (often called “vehicular manslaughter”).  Murder is the most serious of these offenses and can result in life in prison.  It is defined as an intentional or knowing killing or a killing that occurred during the commission of another serious crime.  Murder charges carry at least 30 years in prison without parole, up to life in prison.  New Jersey does not use the death penalty.

Manslaughter is also an illegal killing, but it is not committed by someone knowingly intending to kill someone else.  Instead, the definition of manslaughter under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-4 covers…

  • Death caused “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life,”
  • Death caused while eluding police,
  • Reckless killing, or
  • Murder committed in the “heat of passion” because of provocation.

The last type of killing is vehicular manslaughter.  This covers deaths caused by reckless driving.  Reckless driving can include serious speeding or other mistakes behind the wheel as well as mistakes committed while driving under the influence.  Driving after being awake for 24 hours is automatically considered “reckless” for purposes of these charges.  Vehicular manslaughter is a second degree crime, but it can be upgraded to a first degree crime under certain circumstances.

Aggravated Manslaughter in New Jersey

Circumstances showing an “indifference to human life” for the first type of manslaughter can include serious acts of abuse or neglect, such as leaving someone locked in a room without food, as well as very dangerous activities, such as causing an explosion or a fire.  In some cases, the line is blurred between this crime and the crime of murder, which is why this is known as “aggravated manslaughter” and often carries a higher penalty than other forms of manslaughter.

Killing someone while fleeing from the police is also considered “aggravated manslaughter.”  Once again, this kind of killing is not usually an intentional killing, but would instead cover death caused by a crash during a high-speed chase or other deadly injuries to bystanders.

The first type of aggravated manslaughter is a first degree crime and can carry 10-30 years in prison.  This means that the highest penalty for this crime is the same as the minimum penalty for murder.  The second type of aggravated manslaughter is also a first degree crime, but it carries 10-20 years in prison instead, which is common for other first degree crimes.  In both cases, you can also face a fine of up to $200,000.

Reckless Manslaughter in NJ

If your reckless actions resulted in someone else’s death, it might be charged as manslaughter.  Doing something recklessly means that you knew it could have been dangerous, but you continued to do it anyway.  Someone who commits a crime recklessly is not as mentally committed to the crime as someone who commits a crime knowingly or intentionally, and this reduced mental state is why the crime is charged as a lesser offense compared to murder.

Manslaughter caused by recklessness is usually charged as a second degree crime.  This means paying a fine of up to $150,000 and spending 5-10 years in jail.  This penalty is far lower than the penalties for murder or aggravated manslaughter in most cases.

Manslaughter as a Defense to Murder in New Jersey

The last way that you might be convicted of manslaughter is as a defense to murder charges.  If you are charged with murder, then the government must prove that you intentionally killed someone.  As mentioned, manslaughter does not have the same mental guilt of intentionally or knowingly killing someone.  Instead of a reckless killing, the other reason that someone’s mental guilt might be reduced is if they didn’t really know what they were doing because they were provoked, and the killing occurred in a heat of passion.

To claim that you were provoked into causing someone else’s death, you must prove to the jury that there were circumstances surrounding the killing that would be adequate to provoke the average person.  One of the classic examples of provocation is walking in on your lover in bed with someone else and killing either or both of them in a heat of passion.  While not everyone would react by killing, that shock and fear are often considered sufficient to set off a reasonable person.  Similarly, finding someone committing a crime against a loved one or fearing for your life in situations that do not qualify as self-defense might qualify as adequate provocation to get murder charges reduced to manslaughter.

Call Our NJ Manslaughter Defense Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation

If you were charged with murder or manslaughter in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today.  Our New Jersey manslaughter defense attorneys represent the accused and work to get manslaughter charges dropped and fight to get murder charges reduced to manslaughter or dropped altogether.  For a free, confidential legal consultation on your case, contact our attorneys today at (609) 616-4956.


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