When emotions run high and mistakes are made, someone can get killed. In cases where a homicide was neither premeditated nor justifiable, the Kew Gardens prosecutor will decide whether to charge a defendant with first-degree or second-degree manslaughter.
First-degree manslaughter is often called “voluntary manslaughter” in other jurisdictions, while second-degree manslaughter is called “involuntary” manslaughter. Either offense is a felony in New York and is punishable by between three and 20 years of prison time.
What, then, is the difference between these two offenses? Basically, first-degree or voluntary manslaughter is a heat of the moment type of murder. For example, one might have gotten into an argument with someone and in the process picks something up and hits them, resulting in their death.
Second-degree of involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is often referred to as criminally negligent homicide. Those type homicides are generally accidental deaths resulting from someone’s negligence such as driving under the influence and killing a pedestrian.
Manslaughter charges do not generally apply, however, when a defendant unintentionally kills someone while committing other serious crimes. That’s considered an aggravating factor that elevates the crime to a higher degree of seriousness, such as when a defendant kills someone accidentally while robbing a bank.
Volatile situations have a way of spiraling out of control quickly, especially when tempers are flaring. If someone dies and you’re charged as the result of an incident, we know that circumstances aren’t always what they seem. When your freedom is at risk, an experienced defense attorney may make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful outcome in your New York criminal case.