Manslaughter typically does not arise out of a person's intent to cause death, but rather reckless conduct. For this reason, manslaughter is a second degree crime as compared to murder, which is a first degree crime. However, if a person kills another in the "heat of passion," that is considered a purposeful homicide resulting from "reasonable provocation." The alleged provocation must be so egregious that it would cause an "ordinary reasonable person" to commit the type of violence that results in a fatality.
Types of Manslaughter Charges in New Jersey
In New Jersey, there are four types of manslaughter charges:
- Aggravated by causing death while attempting to evade the police;
- Reckless manslaughter; and
- Heat of passion death as a result of reasonable provocation.
Even if a person is charged with manslaughter in criminal court and is acquitted, the deceased's family may file a wrongful death claim in civil court.
Involuntary manslaughter differs from voluntary manslaughter because of the circumstances surrounding the death. Whereas voluntary manslaughters are deaths caused after provocation or in the heat of passion, involuntary manslaughter involves deaths caused by recklessness or negligence or while committing an unlawful act.
For instance, an individual's irresponsible actions lead to or cause the death of another person such as driving recklessly while being intoxicated and hitting and killing a pedestrian or participating in a fraternity hazing ritual when one of the members suffers a fatal fall after drinking heavily. The New Jersey courts use a reasonable person standard to determine whether the defendant should've been aware of the risk posed by their actions.
The following table highlights the main provisions of New Jersey's manslaughter laws.
||N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4, 11-5
Aggravated Manslaughter, Aggravated (Causing Death By Attempting to Evade Police), Reckless Manslaughter, Passion as a Result of Reasonable Provocation, Death by auto or vessel.
|What is Prohibited?
- Recklessly causing the death of another under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life;
- Causing the death of another while attempting to elude police;
- An individual dies as a result of reckless conduct by the accused; and
- A death is caused in the heat of passion resulting from reasonable provocation.
|What is Considered "Reckless Conduct?"
A person acts recklessly when they consciously disregard a substantial risk and their actions are a gross deviation from a reasonable person acting with ordinary care.
||Possible Wrongful Death lawsuit and restitution to the victim's family.
Aggravated Manslaughter : First degree felony with a penalty of 10 to 30 years in prison depending on the circumstances and a maximum $200,000 fine.
Reckless or Heat of Passion : Second Degree felony, five (5) to ten (10) years in state prison and a fine that can reach $150,000.
All convictions trigger the No Early Release Act (PDF) (85% of the term imposed must be served before parole may be granted).
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
New Jersey Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources
Facing Manslaughter Charges in New Jersey? Find an Attorney
Although manslaughter charges are considered less serious than murder charges, anytime a person is responsible for someone's death, the penalties are severe. You could be facing a lengthy jail term and hefty fines. Get help from an experienced attorney who can assess the strength of your case. Use FindLaw's directory to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney in your area.