Homicide is taking the life of another human being. There are very few offenses that are more serious. New Jersey has specific laws that address what actions constitute homicide and the penalties one will face for these actions.
If you've been charged with homicide, you need the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney who understands the legal system. The stakes are too high to put your future in just anybody's hands. Contact the Lento Law Firm today for representation you can trust.
The importance of being informed in this predicament cannot be overstated. It's crucial you understand the gravity of these charges and the penalties you'll be exposed to if convicted. The Lento Law Firm has provided an overview of homicide laws in New Jersey.
What Constitutes Homicide in New Jersey?
According to New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 11-2, a person will be found guilty of criminal homicide if he or she purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes the death of another human being.
New Jersey has especially strict homicide laws because there's a provision in the law (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-2.1) that dictates that the length of time elapsed between the initial assault and the victim's time of death is not at all restricted. For example, let's say a defendant hits a pedestrian with their vehicle. If the pedestrian dies two years down the line due to complications from the assault, the person will still be legally accountable for this assault and could be charged with criminal homicide.
There are three types of criminal homicide: murder, manslaughter, and death by auto.
Murder is a form of criminal homicide that is charged based on intent. This means that in order to be found guilty of murder, the prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant planned or intended to kill. According to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3, criminal homicide constitutes murder when:
- The defendant purposely causes death or serious bodily injury resulting in death, or
- The defendant knowingly causes death or serious bodily injury resulting in death, or
- It is committed when the defendant, acting alone or with one or more persons, is engaged in the commission of, or an attempt to commit robbery, sexual assault, arson, burglary, kidnapping, carjacking, criminal escape or terrorism, and in the course o such crime causes the death of a victim.
Manslaughter is a crime of malice - not a crime of intent. A defendant does not have to intend to kill another person to be charged with this crime. It must be proven, however, that the defendant took the life of another in a fashion that was reckless or an incident prompted the defendant to commit this crime in the heat of the moment. Criminal homicide constitutes manslaughter when:
- The defendant recklessly caused the death of another person, or
- The death was committed in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation
To prove recklessness, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had a conscious disregard of a substantial risk that death would result from his or her conduct, and such disregard was a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person could conclude in the same situation. If this standard can't be met, the killing was likely caused by negligence, which isn't punishable under New Jersey Law.
In a manslaughter case involving the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation, the prosecution must prove that the incitement must be so gross that an ordinary reasonable person would lose their self-control and use violence with fatal results. In these cases, words alone cannot be insulting or offensive enough to constitute provocation.
Death by Auto
Death by auto, or vehicular homicide, occurs when a death is caused by driving a vehicle recklessly.
A prosecutor can establish recklessness if he or she can prove that the defendant fell asleep while driving or was driving after having been without sleep for a period in excess of 24 consecutive hours.
Homicide Penalties in New Jersey
As aforementioned, three crimes constitute criminal homicide: murder, manslaughter, and death by auto. The severity of the criminal homicide charge depends on the circumstances of a case. Of course, criminal homicide is a violent crime that involves the death of a victim. It is for this reason that these crimes elicit some of the most severe legal penalties in New Jersey.
A person convicted of murder will either be subjected to the death penalty or a term of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole.
A person convicted of reckless or heat of passion manslaughter will be charged with a second-degree crime, which is punishable to 5 to 10 years in state prison and a fine that reaches $150,000.
Generally, death by auto is a crime of the second degree. This offense is a crime of the first degree - punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $200,000 - if the incident occurred on school property.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, criminal homicide can be constituted a number of ways. These charges are taken incredibly seriously in the state of New Jersey. A conviction of this crime can land you behind bars, not to mention the damage a criminal conviction can have on your professional and personal life. To avoid a homicide conviction and the legal penalties that come with it, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you're looking for quality legal representation, the Lento Law Firm is the ideal firm for you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired homicide charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.