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New York First Degree Murder Laws

In New York, murder in the first degree is one form of homicide among others which include second-degree murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and certain forms of abortion. Intentional murder is elevated to first-degree murder when someone 18 or older, intending to cause the death of another person, actually causes the death of that person or a third person and any one of several aggravating factors is present. Those factors address:

  • The identity of the intended victim (police officers, certain peace officers, correctional employees, judges, witnesses);
  • The circumstances in which the murder was committed (while the defendant was serving a life sentence, during the commission of a specified felony ("felony murder"), for hire, accompanied by torture, in furtherance of a terrorist act); or
  • The nature of the killing(s).

New York First Degree Murder laws also include first degree "felony murder" which applies in cases where the victim is killed in the course and in furtherance of, or immediate flight from, certain specific crimes which include:

  • Robbery;
  • Some degrees of burglary;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Arson;
  • Rape; and
  • Sexual abuse.

It's distinguishable from second-degree felony murder because it requires the defendant's intent to kill the victim or another non-participant in the crime, instead of just the intent to commit the underlying felony. Also, a person charged with first-degree felony murder must have personally caused the victim's death or commanded another to do so unlike second-degree felony murder which requires only that a defendant be an accomplice of the actual killer.

New York First Degree Murder Laws At A Glance

The chart below contains some additional information on New York First Degree Murder Laws.

Penalties and Sentences

First degree murder is a class A-I felony and is subject to one of the following sentences:

  • Death;
  • Life imprisonment without parole; or
  • Imprisonment for a term of 20 to 25 years.

Although the statute lists the death penalty as a possible sentence, its use has been in question after certain appeals court cases, making the alternative sentences more likely outcomes.


The following are defenses to first degree murder:

  • Extreme emotional disturbance
  • Assisted suicide without the use of duress or deception
  • Mental disease or defect
  • Infancy (for persons under 18 years of age)
  • Self-defense
  • Defense of another person

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 York First Degree Murder Laws: Additional Resources

You can find additional resources related to New York first degree murder laws by clicking on the links below:

Get Legal Help with Your First Degree Murder Case in New York

If you're facing criminal charges in New York, especially charges related to a homicide, you shouldn't take any chances with your defense because there's too much on the line. If you've been charged with first degree murder, or any other type of homicide, it's best to reach out to a local criminal defense attorney early on so he or she can start challenging the government's evidence and its case against you.

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