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New York Involuntary Manslaughter Laws

Manslaughter is a form of homicide -- conduct which causes the death of a person -- committed when a defendant recklessly causes death (second-degree) or causes death with an intent to cause serious physical injury (first-degree). Meanwhile, the charge of murder generally requires the defendant's intent to cause death. For example, someone who kills another motorist while driving drunk would be charged with second-degree manslaughter, since they were reckless but didn't mean to cause harm or kill anyone.

While some states refer to these separate offenses as "involuntary" or "voluntary" manslaughter, the New York Penal Code identifies them as manslaughter in the second degree and first degree, respectively. If someone accidentally causes the death of a police officer through their reckless actions, they may be charged with aggravated second-degree manslaughter.

New York Involuntary Manslaughter Laws: Overview

Additional details about New York's second-degree manslaughter laws, referred to as involuntary manslaughter in other states, are listed in the following table.


Penal Code Section 125.15 (2nd degree manslaughter)

Penal Code Section 125.21 (aggravated 2nd degree manslaughter)

Statutory Definition of Second-Degree Manslaughter A person commits second-degree manslaughter when he or she (a) recklessly causes the death of another person; (b) commits an unjustified abortional act upon a female which causes her death; or (c) commits assisted suicide.
Aggravating Factors Second-degree manslaughter is elevated to aggravated second-degree manslaughter when the victim of the defendant's reckless conduct is a police officer or peace officer engaged in the course of his or her official duties, and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that such victim was a police officer or peace officer.
Penalties and Sentences

2nd degree manslaughter: Class C felony; 3-15 yrs. in prison, fine of up to $5,000

Aggravated 2nd degree: Class C felony; 7-20 yrs. in prison, fine of up to $5,000

  • Self-defense
  • Defense of another person
  • Infancy (for persons less than 16 years of age)
  • Mental disease or defect

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a New York criminal attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

What it Means to Act Recklessly According to New York Law

According to Section 15.05 of the Penal Code, a person acts "recklessly" with respect to a result or circumstance when he or she is "aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists." The risk that the person creates must be of such nature or magnitude that his or her disregard of it constitutes a "gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation."

New York Involuntary Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources

Get Legal Help with Your Involuntary Manslaughter Case in New York

If you've been charged with second-degree (involuntary) manslaughter in New York, you'll be facing the very real possibility of prison time. You have the right to legal counsel in such cases, however, and should take advantage of that right as soon as you can. So, if you've been charged under New York involuntary manslaughter laws, it's in your best interest to contact a local criminal defense attorney today to discuss your case.

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