Manslaughter is one of the most serious crimes in New Jersey, since it involves taking the life of another person. While it is not as serious as murder, it certainly carries intense penalties that can cause you to spend much of the rest of your life in prison. If you or a loved one was charged with manslaughter, it is vital that you talk to an attorney.
The manslaughter defense and sentencing lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those charged with manslaughter crimes as well as those facing sentencing for this crime. Call our Atlantic City law offices today for a free consultation on your case. Our number is (609) 616-4956.
Penalties and Sentencing for Manslaughter in New Jersey
Crime in New Jersey is divided into two types: “disorderly persons offenses,” which are the equivalent of misdemeanors in other states and the federal system; and “indictable offenses,” which are the equivalent of felonies in other states and the federal courts. These indictable offenses are also called “crimes,” generally, and include multiple levels. The highest level of crime is a first degree crime, which includes the crime of murder.
The killing of another person is not always “murder,” and may instead be classified as either manslaughter or aggravated manslaughter. Aggravated manslaughter is the higher form of manslaughter, and occurs in 2 situations:
- When the actor causes the victim’s death “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.” This means the killing wasn’t intentional, but it was extremely reckless.
- The actor causes the victim’s death while eluding or escaping from police, such as during a high-speed car chase.
Manslaughter (or “simple” manslaughter, as opposed to “aggravated manslaughter”) occurs under less serious circumstances. This is the crime for when:
- The killing is “reckless.” This means that the actor understood there was a high and unjustifiable risk of death, but continued to perform an action that caused death.
- A killing that would otherwise be murder occurs under “reasonable provocation.”
Both forms of aggravated manslaughter are first degree crimes in NJ. Usually, a first degree crime is punished by 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000. However, if the aggravated manslaughter was due to extreme indifference to human life, the penalty is expanded to 10-30 years.
Simple manslaughter is a second degree crime, punishable by 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
Plea Deals for Manslaughter in New Jersey
With many crimes, prosecutors may want to forgo the time and expense of trial, and may offer a “plea agreement” or “plea deal.” This often reduces your overall jail time in a few ways:
- The prosecutors will reduce the charges against you in exchange for a guilty plea;
- The prosecutors will drop additional charges in exchange for a plea to a particular charge/group of charges;
- The prosecutors will recommend a minimum or lowered sentence to the judge in exchange for a guilty plea; or
- The prosecutors will reduce or drop your charges in exchange for testimony against another defendant.
These deals may work to lower your charges or sentence. Many of these may be available if you are willing to cooperate with police on your manslaughter charges. However, you should always consult an attorney before accepting any deals or offering to plead to any criminal offense.
Manslaughter charges are often part of a plea deal, where murder charges are reduced to manslaughter charges in exchange for a plea. If this is the case, you may be able to avoid murder charges by pleading to manslaughter instead.
Sentencing Ranges for Manslaughter in NJ
Any sentence for manslaughter is recorded in New Jersey’s statutes as a range of potential punishments. With either 5-10 years, 10-20 years, or 10-30 years, there can be a huge variation in the final punishment, even for the same level of manslaughter. It is up to the sentencing judge to decide on the final, specific punishment in your case.
In deciding the penalty you will face, judges often look at the baseline reasons behind punishment. Judges seek to do all of the following things, which can help them balance your specific penalty:
- Stop crime;
- Promote rehabilitation;
- Ensure public safety;
- Stop excessive punishment;
- Give fair warning of penalties;
- Individualize punishment;
- Use science and research in sentencing; and
- Promote restitution to the victim.
Restitution, or monetary payments, are not a particularly heavy factor in homicide cases, but the other goals all help a judge determine how long your sentence should be. In addition, judges also look at your criminal record and the circumstances surrounding the crime. If there are factors that minimize how bad your offense was (called “mitigating factors”), such as mental health issues, a history of abuse against you, or other circumstances, judges may even sentence you lower than the statutory minimum.
Atlantic City Manslaughter Sentencing Lawyer
If you or a loved one was charged with manslaughter in New Jersey, talk to one of our lawyers today. The Atlantic City criminal defense and sentencing lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those accused of crimes throughout Atlantic County, including Atlantic City, Brigantine, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Hammonton, Pleasantville, Somers Point, Ventnor City, and elsewhere in South Jersey. For a free consultation on your case, call our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.