Murder and Manslaughter Charges in New York

Although the terms ‘homicide’ and ‘murder’ are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Some acts of homicide are legally justifiable, such as self-defense. The intent behind the act is examined to determine whether it should be classified as murder or manslaughter.


Murder is a Class A-1 felony, and a conviction can send you to prison for life without the possibility of parole. Like most crimes, there are different degrees of murder.

Murder in the Second Degree under NY law falls into several categories, any one of which can result in an arrest and murder charge.

  1. Intentionally killing of another person (or a third party while attempting to kill the original target)
  2.  Showing a “depraved indifference to human life” by acting so recklessly that someone died as a result
  3. Killing someone in the course of committing a felony such as burglary, robbery, arson, rape, or sexual abuse
  4. Killing someone under 11 by in a way that demonstrates an indifference to human life.
  5. Killing someone under 14 while committing an act of rape, sexual abuse, or criminal sexual act

Murder in the Second Degree is punishable by 15 to 25 years to life in a state prison and may, in certain circumstances, have an even greater period of incarceration.

Murder in the First Degree is charged differently in New York than in some other states. Not only must it be proven that you intended to kill the victim, you must also be at least 18 when the crime was committed and elements like the following must be satisfied.

  • The intended victim was a police officer, judge or other law enforcement figure acting in the course of their duties or
  • You were serving a life sentence when you killed the other person or
  • The victim was intentionally killed while you were committing or leaving the scene of a felony or
  • You caused someone to die under torture or committed an act of terror or
  • The murder was for hire

At present, the penalty for murder in the first degree is life in prison without parole or imprisonment for 20 to 25 years to life.


A homicide might be classified as manslaughter in certain circumstances. Manslaughter can be voluntary or involuntary.

Manslaughter in the Second Degree is an involuntary manslaughter charge that applies 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 punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A related charge is aggravated manslaughter in the second degree, which involves the killing of a police officer.

Manslaughter in the First Degree is a voluntary manslaughter charge that involves the killing of another person when the original intent was to cause serious physical injury. An important element of this statute is that you act “in the heat of the moment”. A common example is a husband coming home, finding his wife in bed with another man, and killing the man in a blind rage. This crime is a Class B felony that can send you to prison for up to 25 years.

If you are charged with murder or manslaughter in New York, then it is imperative that you hire a criminal defense attorney with experience in defending these charges. Even though the death penalty is not currently being applied in New York, the penalties for these homicide charges are high and expert legal representation will ensure the most favorable outcome for you. Julie Rendelman is an experienced criminal defense lawyer and former Kings County prosecutor who headed the Homicide Bureau. If you have been accused or charged with a murder or manslaughter crime, then contact the Law Offices of Julie Rendelman, LLC. Ms. Rendelman offers free consultations at 212-951-1232.