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How Does New York Determine Murder vs. Manslaughter?

In the state of New York, the main distinguishment between manslaughter and murder is intent. That is, your intention during the act of killing may significantly alter what penalties you are up against. Find out more on the difference between the two and how an experienced Spring Valley violent crimes lawyer at Kevin T. Conway can help defend your charges.

How does New York define murder?

The state of New York breaks murder charges up between murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree. A charge of murder in the first degree is applicable if you are at least 18 years of age when the crime was committed and it is proven that you intended to kill the victim. The following are some other scenarios that may lead to this charge:

  • The victim was a law enforcement officer.
  • You were serving a life sentence when you killed the victim.
  • The victim was intentionally killed in the course of committing another felony.
  • You caused the victim to die under torture or committed an act of terror.
  • The murder was for hire.

Murder in the first degree is considered a Class A violent felony that is punishable by anywhere between 20 years to life in prison without parole.

On the other hand, a charge of murder in the second degree is applicable if you intentionally killed a third party while attempting to kill the original target. The following must also be proven:

  • You showed a depraved indifference to human life by acting so recklessly that someone died as a result.
  • The victim was killed in the course of committing another felony.

The typical sentence for a charge of murder in the second degree is anywhere between 15 years to life in prison.

How does New York define manslaughter?

Contrastingly, a manslaughter offense is relevant if there was a lack of intention to kill, even with death resulting. A charge of manslaughter in the first degree applies when there was a killing of another person when the original intent was to cause serious physical injury. Such action must have been done in the heat of the moment. This is a Class B felony that can result in up to 25 years in prison.

Manslaughter in the second degree is charged when you did not intend to kill the victim but acted in such a dangerous and reckless manner that death resulted. It is a Class C felony that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

If you are facing any of these offenses, contact a skilled Rockland County criminal defense attorney today. 


Kevin T. Conway has over 30 years of experience as a Spring Valley criminal attorney handling DUI, DWI, traffic violations, violent crimes, sex crimes, illegal gun possession, shoplifting, and juvenile crimes. Attorney Conway is also experienced in commercial law matters, zoning law, and estate planning. If you need a Rockland County criminal lawyer, contact our Spring Valley office for a free consultation.

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