A manslaughter charge has serious consequences, sometimes just as serious as other types of murder charges. But even if you get a light sentence, even after you have paid your debt to society, that conviction can come back to haunt you.

Unless you have a post-conviction relief like expungement, that conviction will show up every time you get a background check for a job or to rent an apartment. It will be there keeping you from working in certain fields and even prevent you from having certain businesses.

People look at a charge of manslaughter and think killer, but they also think reckless or negligent. None of that is good.

The worst part is that it will follow you for the rest of your life. Everywhere you go, whoever you are with, that stigma will be there as the conviction hangs over your head.

There are legal remedies though that can reduce the charges or even cause the prosecution to drop the case completely. It happens more often than you may realize, and it can happen to you.

But it isn’t likely to happen if you don’t have solid legal representation in your corner. A good criminal defense attorney can help you with your case and often can help you get a lighter sentence. It’s time you made the call and got yourself a lawyer.

Overview of Manslaughter

Manslaughter is a crime that very closely mimics murder but with some distinct differences. It is the act of killing a person in a way that lacks the legal requirements for murder. In other words, it lacks malice aforethought and other elements that make an act of killing murder.

There are two classifications for the crime of murder:

  • Voluntary manslaughter – Killing a person with intent in the heat of passion and/or responding to provocation
  • Involuntary manslaughter – Causing the death of a person due to negligence

Some states also have a charge of aggravated manslaughter which involved killing a police officer or peace officer.

Many states also have a charge of vehicular manslaughter. This type of manslaughter involves a vehicle and is a common charge when a person is involved in a car accident and causes death.

Manslaughter still carries a prison sentence, but often it is shorter than murder.

Federal Manslaughter Charges

In Federal law, there are two types of homicide. The first type has two degrees; first-degree murder and second-degree murder. The other type is manslaughter under which there are two classifications: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

The federal crime of manslaughter is defined and described in 18 U.S. Code § 1112 – Manslaughter.

18 U.S. Code § 1112 – Manslaughter

(a)Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of two kinds:

Voluntary—Upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.

Involuntary—In the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act that might produce death.

Involuntary manslaughter is sometimes referred to as negligent homicide or killing due to the nature of the act where the defendant was more careless than they were cruel or mean-spirited and it resulted in the death of the victim. Even if the defendant did not mean to harm the victim in any way, he or she can still be charged and convicted of manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is very similar to the crime of second-degree murder in that unintentional killing is an element of both charges. The line between the two is not always clear and is often left up to the interpretation of the judge.

New York Manslaughter Charges

New York has laws that cover manslaughter and aggravated manslaughter. Each of these charges has a first and second degree.  All manslaughter charges are felonies according to New York law. It is not a lesser charge because its definition is very similar to murder in the second degree, it just has different circumstances surrounding it.

New York Penal Law § 125.15: Manslaughter in the second degree

A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when: 

1. He recklessly causes the death of another person; or

2. He commits upon a female an abortional act which causes her death, unless such abortional act is justifiable pursuant to subdivision three of section 125.05; or 

3. He intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide.

New York Penal Law § 125.20: Manslaughter in the first degree

A person is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree when:

1. With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person; or 

2. With intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person under circumstances which do not constitute murder because he acts under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance; or 

3. He commits upon a female pregnant for more than twenty-four weeks an abortional act which causes her death, unless such abortional act is justifiable pursuant to subdivision three of section 125.05; or 

4. Being eighteen years old or more and with intent to cause physical injury to a person less than eleven years old, the defendant recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of serious physical injury to such person and thereby causes the death of such person.

New York Penal Law § 125.21: Aggravated manslaughter in the second degree

A person is guilty of aggravated manslaughter in the second degree when he or she recklessly causes the death of a police officer or peace officer where such officer was in the course of performing his or her official duties and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that such victim was a police officer or peace officer.

New York Penal Law § 125.22: Aggravated manslaughter in the first degree

A  person  is  guilty  of  aggravated manslaughter in the first degree when: 

1. with intent to cause serious physical injury to a police officer or peace officer, where such officer was in the course of performing his or her official duties and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that such victim was a police officer or a peace officer, he or she causes the death of such officer or another police officer or peace officer; or

2.  with  intent  to  cause  the  death  of  a police officer or peace officer, where such officer was in the course of performing his  or  her official  duties  and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that such victim was a police officer or peace officer, he or she causes the death of such officer or another police  officer  or  peace  officer under  circumstances  which  do  not constitute murder because he or she acts under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance.

Attempted Voluntary Manslaughter

Inchoate crimes, also called incomplete crimes, are a specific type of crimes that are completed at some point in the steps to actually committing the allegedly intended crime which is called the “target offense”. The basic inchoate offenses are conspiracy, solicitation, and attempt.

The defendant is prosecuted for the step that they completed. If they attempted murder but did not complete it, then they are prosecuted for attempted murder. However, if they are prosecuted for murder, which is the target crime, then the inchoate offenses like attempt and solicitation would merge into that prosecution for the target offense. This is not true for conspiracy. A defendant can be charged for both conspiracy and the target crime.

Under federal law, attempted voluntary manslaughter is a crime that carries a sentence of up to seven years and a fine, or both. Attempted murder under New York law typically falls under murder in the second degree. Attempted voluntary manslaughter would fall under this charge. Attempted murder in New York carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

The only type of attempted manslaughter is voluntary manslaughter. A person cannot attempt an act that is involuntary so that negates any potential for attempted involuntary manslaughter.

Penalties for a Federal Manslaughter Conviction

Even though federal manslaughter does not carry the death penalty or life in prison, a conviction can still mean several years (as many as 15 years) in prison for the defendant.

18 U.S. Code § 1112 – Manslaughter

(b)Within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,

Whoever is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both;

Whoever is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

18 U.S. Code § 1113 – Attempt to commit murder or manslaughter

Except as provided in section 113 of this title, whoever, within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, attempts to commit murder or manslaughter, shall, for an attempt to commit murder be imprisoned not more than twenty years or fined under this title, or both, and for an attempt to commit manslaughter be imprisoned not more than seven years or fined under this title, or both.

Penalties for a Manslaughter Conviction in New York

Any manslaughter conviction in New York comes with a lengthy prison sentence. All manslaughter crimes are considered violent felonies and the sentences for each reflect that.

New York Penal Law § 125.15: Manslaughter in the second degree

  • Manslaughter in the second degree is a class C violent felony.
    • Minimum 3.5 years in prison
    • Maximum 15 years in prison
    • Fine
    • Probation

New York Penal Law § 125.20: Manslaughter in the first degree

  • Manslaughter in the first degree is a class B violent felony.
    • Minimum 5 years in prison
    • Maximum 25 years in prison
    • Fine
    • Probation

New York Penal Law § 125.21: Aggravated manslaughter in the second degree

  • Aggravated manslaughter in the second degree is a class C violent felony.
    • Minimum 3.5 years in prison
    • Maximum 15 years in prison
    • Fine
    • Probation

New York Penal Law § 125.22: Aggravated manslaughter in the first degree

  • Aggravated manslaughter in the first degree is a class B violent felony.
    • Minimum 5 years in prison
    • Maximum 25 years in prison
    • Fine
    • Probation

Defenses for Manslaughter

There are several defenses that a person may use when faced with a manslaughter charge. Law enforcement does not always get it right and sometimes things simply are not what they seem. A vicious crime may actually be self-defense. There are several defenses that a good criminal defense attorney can use to get the defendant a lesser sentence, lesser charge, an acquittal or get the charges dismissed.

Some of the more common defenses for manslaughter include:

  • Accident
  • Self-defense
  • Defense of someone else
  • The conduct or actions of the defendant did not cause the death
  • False accusation due to identity
  • False accusation due to alibi
  • Heat of passion
  • Actions were not performed with conscious disregard for human life
  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Procedural errors and omissions

If you have been charged with manslaughter you may be wondering what your next steps are. The first thing you should do is get a good criminal defense attorney to represent you. Manslaughter charges aren’t always straightforward and it’s easy to get lost in a complex case.

Don’t let yourself fall through the cracks. You have the right to legal representation and you should get it.

Call The Litvak Law Firm at (718) 989-2908 and get the legal counsel that you are entitled to. Our team will work on your case to ensure that your rights are protected. Mr. Litvak has the experience and knowledge to handle your case and make sure you get the best outcome possible.

Call today for your free consultation to see how Mr. Litvak can help you. Don’t go it alone. Get the help and support you need and deserve.