Murder charges or aggravated manslaughter charges in New Jersey are among the most serious criminal charges a person can face. We understand that you may feel anxious and hopeless right now if you face manslaughter or homicide charges. However, keep in mind that you have the right to hire a criminal defense lawyer. You’re also not automatically guilty just because a prosecutor charged you with one of these serious crimes.
As experienced criminal defense attorneys, Roy Breslow and Casey Breslow know that criminal charges don’t always tell the whole story. You could have a legal justification for causing the death of another person in self-defense or someone other than you could have committed the crime. We use our combined decades of criminal defense experience to determine how and why the victim died and who bears responsibility for causing death. We urge you to take advantage of our free consultation by calling Breslow Law Offices at 973-239-8000 in Verona or 609-494-8884 in Long Beach Island to request it.
Understanding Manslaughter Charges in New Jersey
If you have received manslaughter charges, it means the state of New Jersey believes you caused the death of another person through reckless conduct. You didn’t plan the death, which means it doesn’t fit the definition of premeditation and more serious murder charges. New Jersey currently recognizes four categories of manslaughter:
- Aggravated manslaughter
- Aggravated manslaughter leading to the death of another person while trying to evade the police
- Reckless manslaughter
- Death occurring in the heat of passion and resulting from a reasonable provocation
New Jersey also recognizes the broad categories of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter typically involves reckless conduct or heat of passion provocation while involuntary manslaughter usually involves negligence or occurs while committing some type of illegal activity. A key defense involuntary manslaughter charges are that the deceased person must have sufficiently provoked you and you had inadequate time to calm down to prevent the crime from occurring.
Self-defense is a common legal defense to involuntary manslaughter charges. For example, perhaps you exchanged words with another patron at a bar and that person later started a fight with you. If you fought back and the person died as a result, you may be able to argue that the death was unintentional and you acted out of self-defense. You may also have acted in a reckless manner but with no intention to cause bodily harm or death.
If convicted of manslaughter charges in New Jersey, you face a fine of up to $150,000 and 10 to 20 years in prison. The criminal court considers this a crime in the second degree. First degree aggravated manslaughter comes with a fine of up to $200,000 and a prison sentence ranging from 10 to 30 years.
Murder Charges and New Jersey Law
Murder charges in New Jersey can be either first degree or second degree. The primary difference between the two is intent. If a prosecutor can prove you premeditated the crime or otherwise showed intent, you will receive a first-degree murder charge. The state further recognizes three forms of first-degree murder, including purposeful, knowing, and while committing or attempting to commit another felony.
If the state charges you with knowing or purposeful murder, it must prove that each of the following occurred:
- A human being has died
- Your actions caused the immediate death of another person or injuries that later led to his or her death
- You used a deadly weapon, meeting the description of purposefully and knowingly engaging in activities that would reasonably cause death
Even if the original charge is second-degree murder, it could upgrade to a first-degree murder charge if another person died due to you committing or attempting to commit a different crime. Some examples include:
In addition to the distinctions between first-degree murder and second-degree murder, the state also recognizes felony murder. That means it accuses you of committing murder while attempting or completing another felony crime. Prosecutors do not need to prove intent in this situation. They only need to demonstrate that a murder occurred at the same time as the other serious crime.
You face 30 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder in New Jersey. State law requires judges to impose a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for the killing of a person less than 14 years old or a police officer. Second-degree murder charges, which take more mitigating factors into consideration than first-degree murder charges, typically result in a prison sentence of 15 years to life. Criminal history and the sequence of events that caused the death of another person are two of the most common mitigating circumstances that can affect the length of your prison sentence.
Even if the state drops murder or manslaughter charges against you, keep in mind that family members of the deceased may attempt to sue you for the wrongful death of a loved one. However, that is a civil manner and not something that your criminal defense attorney would cover.
Secure Your Manslaughter or Murder Defense Today
The most important legal advice we can offer is not to become overwhelmed when charged with murder or manslaughter. We know that circumstances are not always what they appear. Our criminal defense attorneys use all available resources to challenge prosecutors to present indisputable evidence that you committed the crime indicated in your criminal charges. If they can’t do that beyond a reasonable doubt, the state has no choice but to allow you to go free.
You may reach Breslow Law Office to request your free consultation at 973-239-8000 in Essex County or 609-494-8884 in Ocean County or by filling out our contact form. As former prosecutors, we understand the strategies used to convict people of serious crimes. We certainly use this knowledge to our advantage when creating your defense strategy.