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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:58 pm
An Overview of Homicide Charges in New Jersey
Homicide charges in New Jersey range from the most serious first-degree murder to lesser offenses like manslaughter. The penalties can be severe, including life in prison with no parole, so anyone facing these allegations needs an experienced criminal defense attorney on their side. This article provides an overview of the different homicide charges and potential defenses.
First-degree murder, covered under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3(a)(1-2), is the most serious type of criminal homicide charge in New Jersey. It involves purposely or knowingly causing the death of another person. First-degree murder has a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 30 years to life, with no parole eligibility for 30 years.
There are certain aggravated factors that make a murder charge eligible for life without parole, including if the victim was a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, or a minor under 14 years old. Terrorism charges under N.J.S.A. 2C:38-2 can also trigger mandatory life sentences.
Potential defenses to first-degree murder charges include arguing the killing was in self-defense, that the defendant had diminished mental capacity negating the intent elements, or the evidence fails to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer can analyze the facts and build customized defense strategies.
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3, second-degree murder involves a knowing or purposeful killing committed without premeditation. It carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison, with a presumptive term of 15 to 30 years if convicted at trial. Defenses to second-degree murder are similar to first-degree charges.
The key distinction between first and second-degree murder is premeditation – meaning did the defendant plan the killing ahead of time. Self-defense claims may also have a better chance against second-degree allegations. Our aggressive lawyers know how to fight these charges and have achieved many favorable outcomes for clients.
The state has several manslaughter statutes covering reckless killings or deaths caused in a heat of extreme emotional disturbance. The penalties are not as severe but still include years in prison. Our firm’s manslaughter defense lawyers have extensive experience beating these charges at trial or securing plea bargains to lesser offenses like aggravated assault.
Passion/Provocation Manslaughter (2C:11-4(b)(2)) – Causing a death while under extreme emotional disturbance in response to reasonable provocation. This can reduce a murder to manslaughter. Potential defenses argue the provocation was legally adequate to mitigate intent.
Reckless Manslaughter (2C:11-4(b)(1)) – Acting recklessly under circumstances showing extreme indifference to human life, resulting in death. Possible defenses contest the evidence fails to prove recklessness versus negligence.
Aggravated Manslaughter (2C:11-4(a)) – Recklessly causing death under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life. This is similar to reckless manslaughter but penalized more severely as a first-degree crime.
Vehicular Homicide (2C:11-5) – Causing a death by driving recklessly while intoxicated. Defenses may challenge the evidence of recklessness or argue the crash was an accident not a crime.
Any homicide charge in New Jersey should be taken very seriously given the severe penalties. Our firm’s criminal defense lawyers have over 100 combined years of experience and routinely handle complex murder and manslaughter cases. We fight aggressively to get charges reduced or dismissed. Call us now for help.