NJ Homicide Laws: Murder, Manslaughter & Death by Auto
Homicide refers to the killing of another human being. In New Jersey, homicide is classified as either murder, aggravated manslaughter, manslaughter, or death by auto, with subcategories under each. Because homicide is considered to be the most serious crime a person can commit, it bears the toughest penalties. If you’ve been charged with a criminal homicide, you are entitled to your own attorney. Seek the help of an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who will fight to protect your right to liberty and freedom.
Murder can fall into one of three categories. The first is when the person purposely causes death or serious bodily injury resulting in death. The second is when the person knowingly causes death or serious injury resulting in death. Neither the first nor the second require any premeditation or forethought.
In order for a person to be found guilty of murder, the state must first prove that the defendant caused the death or serious injury that resulted in the demise of the victim. The state must then prove that the defendant acted purposely or knowingly. Third, they must prove that the defendant did not act in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation.
The state is not required to prove a motive, however the presence or the absence of a motive may have influence on the jury decision of whether or not they hand down a guilty verdict or a not guilty verdict.
The third type of murder is called felony murder. Felony murder is committed when the person, acting alone or with one or more other persons, is engaged in the commission of, or attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit robbery, sexual assault, arson, burglary, kidnapping, carjacking, criminal escape or terrorism, and in the course of this crime or flight causes the death of another person who was not a participant.
Murder is a crime of the first degree and carries a penalty of no less than 30 years to life in prison. In some circumstances, the mandatory sentence is life without the possibility of parole. These situations include the victim being an on-duty law enforcement officer, if the victim was under 14 years of age, or if the death occurred during or as the result of a sexual assault.
Aggravated manslaughter is a crime of the first degree and carries a penalty of 10 to 30 years in prison. To prove aggravated manslaughter, the state must prove that the defendant recklessly caused the death of another while acting with extreme indifference to human life. This term refers to the circumstances under which the defendant acted, and does not account for the defendant’s state of mind at the time. In other words, if the defendant’s conduct creates a probability, rather than a mere possibility of death, the court may find the defendant guilty of aggravated manslaughter.
Manslaughter may be divided into two subcategories: reckless and passion as a result of reasonable provocation. Both are lesser offenses of purposeful and knowing murder and both are second degree crimes. A person may be found guilty of reckless manslaughter if the state can prove that the defendant knowingly disregarded a substantial risk that death would result, and that he or she acted in a way that no reasonable person under similar circumstances would have acted.
A passion or provocation manslaughter is a death caused purposely or knowingly, but in the heat of passion and with reasonable provocation, such as fear or rage. In order for this crime to be distinguished from murder, certain factors must be present. First, that there was adequate provocation. Second that the provocation actually incited intense fear or rage within the defendant. Finally, that the defendant did not have time to cool off before causing the death. This second degree offense usually carries a penalty of five to ten years in prison.
Death by Auto
Also referred to as vehicular homicide, this occurs when a person causes the death of another while recklessly operating a vehicle such as a car, motorcycle, or boat. In most cases, death by auto is a second degree offense. Reckless driving can refer to any number of offenses that are a willful disregard of others on the road. Examples include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, falling asleep at the wheel, driving after being awake for 24 or more consecutive hours, or driving while operating a hand-held cell phone.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving with a suspended or revoked license, both carry heavier penalties and minimum jail time served. Death by auto is a first degree offense if the crime was committed on or within 1,000 feet of a school zone, while driving through a school crossing, or had knowledge that children were present. A person convicted for vehicular homicide may face up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000, as well as a possible loss of license.
Cherry Hill Criminal Lawyer Jill R. Cohen Defends Murder Charges in New Jersey
If you have been charged with any type of murder charge in New Jersey, it is essential that you immediately seek the help of highly skilled criminal defense lawyer in New Jersey. Jill R. Cohen, Esq. offers caring, personal attention to each of her clients and ensures that her client’s constitutional rights are protected. Ms. Cohen has successfully defended countless clients in South Jersey criminal court proceedings in Camden City, Cherry Hill and Mt. Holly and throughout Burlington County, Salem County, Cumberland County and Mercer County. She is currently defending murder cases in Atlantic County, Gloucester County and Camden County. Call Camden County criminal lawyer, Jill R. Cohen, today in her Westmont, New Jersey office or contact her online to set up your free consultation. Ms. Cohen will even meet you in jail when necessary.