Manslaughter is one of the most serious crimes a person can be charged within New Jersey. If you've been charged, it's imperative you retain a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney immediately. The stakes are too high to put your future in just anybody's hands. Contact the Lento Law Firm for legal 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 murder laws in New Jersey.
What Constitutes Manslaughter in New Jersey?
Manslaughter is a form of criminal homicide that is distinguished from others, such as murder, due to the element of malice. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-4, killing is considered manslaughter when:
- The defendant recklessly caused the death of another person, or
- The defendant commits a crime that would normally be described as murder, except that the offense was “committed in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation” or a “heat of passion.”
In to prove recklessness, the prosecution has the burden of proving that a defendant had a conscious disregard of a substantial risk that death would result from his or her conduct, and this disregard was a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person could conclude in the same situation. If the prosecution can't prove that a defendant's actions meet the standard of recklessness, then the killing was likely caused by negligence, which currently isn't punishable by New Jersey law.
Manslaughter cases involving the “heat of passion” require the prosecution to prove that the incitement of this crime was so gross that a reasonable person would lose their self-control and use violent force. In these circumstances, words alone can never be offensive or insulting enough to provoke manslaughter.
Manslaughter can be elevated to aggravated manslaughter when certain elements exist in the case. These elements include:
- The defendant recklessly caused the death of another person under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life
- The defendant caused the death of another person while fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer
Manslaughter Penalties in New Jersey
As you would expect, a manslaughter conviction leads to serious legal penalties in New Jersey.
Manslaughter is a crime of the second degree, which is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
Aggravated manslaughter is a crime of the first degree with penalties of 10 to 30 years in prison and a maximum $200,000 fine.
Potential Defenses for Manslaughter Charges
An indictment for a manslaughter charge is determined by the prevalence of a number of factors. Attorney Joseph Lento of the Lento Law Firm has an adept knowledge of the elements of a case that must be proven to prosecute a defendant of manslaughter, and therefore understands the potential defenses to assert to disprove these elements. A defense can be so convincing that it leads to a defendant's sentence being reduced or downgraded. A solid defense can even lead to the dismissal of your case altogether. The following defenses could possibly be asserted in your case if applicable:
The prosecution has mistaken your identity. In manslaughter cases and other homicide crimes, attorneys often utilize the defense of mistaken identity. The use of this defense implies that the prosecution has charged the wrong person with murder. In these cases, an alibi is usually asserted to support this defense.
You were defending yourself. Claims of self-defense are common to defend manslaughter charges. Self-defense acknowledges that the defendant did do what they've been accused of, however, they were justified in doing so. But the elements of imminent harm and whether or not the use of force was appropriate will be assessed to determine if this defense is permissible.
Insanity. Pleading insanity means that the defendant was unable to cognitively assess what they were doing and did not realize that the act was unlawful. If this defense is properly asserted, a defendant may be excluded from criminal liability.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
Manslaughter is a very serious crime in New Jersey. This is why it's important you do all you can to avoid a conviction and the legal and collateral repercussions that accompanies a manslaughter conviction. The most important thing you can do in this situation is to seek the help of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.
Firstly, you should never discuss the circumstances of your without an attorney present. If the police attempt to question you, it's in your best interest to decline this questioning and immediately request an attorney. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty, and a prosecutor must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. You need an attorney who will challenge them at every possible turn as they try to pin this crime on you. If they don't have a solid case, there should be motions that stop them from moving forward.
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 manslaughter charges. He will provide you with options in this predicament, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. Mr. Lento keeps flexible office hours and is willing to work around your schedule. To set up a consultation or for more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.