Criminal charges related to the death of another person are some of the most serious charges in our criminal justice system. While violent crimes tend to be met with swift repercussions, crimes for killing, accidental or not, are perceived as especially heinous. Contrary to popular belief, not every killing is labeled as “murder.” In fact, murder is a specific criminal charge with varying gradations, not an umbrella term encompassing all types of killings. Killings that are unintentional or are the results of accidents may be charged as manslaughter.
While any killing is serious, manslaughter charges are less severe than murder charges and typically come with lighter penalties. Manslaughter is not always the first offense charged. In many cases, defendants are charged with murder or another more serious offense. Manslaughter charges frequently result from plea negotiations or effective defense tactics aimed at reducing charges. No matter the case, if you are facing manslaughter charges, you definitely need the help of a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you are facing manslaughter charges or more serious murder charges, an attorney could help your case. Call our New Jersey manslaughter defense lawyers about handling your case and fighting your charges. Schedule a free, private legal consultation at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call us today at (609) 616-4956.
The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in New Jersey
One very big difference between murder and manslaughter is the defendant’s intent. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-3, a murder occurs when the defendant purposefully causes the victim’s death. It may also be completed if the defendant does not act purposefully but knows their actions are likely to cause the death of another person. In either circumstance, the defendant must have acted with purpose or intent when the killing occurred. It is also murder if a defendant kills another person during the commission of another felony. However, felony murder does not necessarily have to be intentional. For example, shooting and killing a bank teller during a bank robbery could be felony murder, even if you fired the gun by mistake.
Manslaughter is charged under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-4. Manslaughter is similar to murder, but manslaughter is committed recklessly rather than purposefully. This may mean that the defendant’s behavior was so dangerous that they should have recognized the risk of danger to others. For example, suppose you struck and killed a pedestrian while driving. If you were speeding and looking at your phone at the time of the killing, and the killing was an accident, you could be charged with manslaughter.
Manslaughter may also occur in the heat of passion. Killings that occur under such circumstances must result from reasonable provocation. Generally, a defendant who kills in the heat of passion does so as a reaction to something extremely outrageous and has almost no time to contemplate their actions before acting. If a court agrees that the circumstances of your provocation were reasonable, your charges may be reduced to manslaughter.
Because manslaughter lacks the intent to kill, sometimes referred to as malice, it is punished less severely. Keep in mind that manslaughter is still a very serious offense, and a convicted defendant could face years in prison. Call our New Jersey manslaughter defense lawyers for help.
Types of Manslaughter in New Jersey
As with many other criminal charges, manslaughter may be charged in varying degrees of severity. Manslaughter is either charged as ordinary manslaughter or aggravated manslaughter. The difference between the two is crucial. Ordinary manslaughter is charged as a second-degree crime, but aggravated manslaughter is charged as a first-degree crime and comes with more serious penalties.
While ordinary manslaughter is committed recklessly, aggravated manslaughter occurs under more extreme conditions. To constitute aggravated manslaughter, the defendant’s actions must have been so reckless as to demonstrate extreme indifference to human life. Both forms of manslaughter occur because of the reckless behavior of the defendant. However, aggravated manslaughter requires a greater degree of callousness, such as in situations where the danger is highly likely and very extreme.
If you are facing charges for ordinary or aggravated manslaughter, our New Jersey manslaughter defense attorneys could help. Call our offices to set up a meeting with our team about your case.
Defending Against Manslaughter Charges in New Jersey
It may be possible to defend against manslaughter charges by negating the essential elements of the offense. Manslaughter requires that the defendant acted recklessly when the killing occurred. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:2-2, a defendant acts recklessly when they disregard an unjustifiable and substantial risk. For example, driving at a speed of 100 mph while texting is an unjustifiable and substantial risk to the safety of other drivers.
We may be able to argue that you were unaware of the risks involved in your behavior. While many actions have inherent risks, not all risks are obvious to the actor. It is possible that the risk that led to the death of another person could not have reasonably been known. Alternatively, if you did know the risk, but the risk was justifiable under the circumstances, manslaughter charges could be reduced or dropped.
The most effective defense will depend on the unique details of your case. Contact our New Jersey manslaughter defense attorneys to talk about your situation and the best defense possible.
Plea Agreements for Manslaughter in New Jersey
Not every criminal case ends in a trial with a jury verdict. Many criminal trials are instead resolved through plea agreements. Plea agreements are like deals between defendants and prosecutors. The defendant agrees to plead guilty, and the prosecutor agrees to reduce the charges. In the end, defendants serve lighter sentences, and prosecutors have fewer trials to worry about.
Manslaughter charges are often the result of plea agreements. Defendants are often charged with murder at first, but with the help of their defense attorneys, they negotiate to plead guilty to manslaughter charges.
It might also be possible to negotiate for charges even lower than manslaughter. For example, if your behavior did not rise to the level of recklessness, but prosecutors still seek to hold you responsible for the killing, there may be an alternative, lesser charge available. Our New Jersey manslaughter defense lawyers can help you negotiate the best plea agreement possible for your situation.
Contact Our New Jersey Manslaughter Defense Lawyers
If you are facing criminal charges related to the death of another person, you may be dealing with a murder or manslaughter case. Our New Jersey manslaughter defense lawyers will help you to the best of their abilities. Contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych about setting up a free legal consultation. Call us today at (609) 616-4956.