25 Sep 23

New York Penal Law 125.15: Manslaughter in the Second Degree

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Last Updated on: 29th September 2023, 07:00 am


New York Penal Law 125.15: Manslaughter in the Second Degree

Manslaughter in the second degree is a serious criminal charge in New York that involves recklessly causing the death of another person. Even if you didn’t intend to kill someone, your actions that result in their death can still lead to prosecution under NY Penal Law 125.15. This article will explain what constitutes manslaughter in the second degree, potential defenses, penalties, and real-world examples.

What is Manslaughter in the Second Degree?

Under New York law, a person commits manslaughter in the second degree when they recklessly cause the death of another person[1]. Recklessness in this context means that the person was aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would occur from their actions. They consciously disregarded that risk and continued acting in a way that resulted in someone’s death[2].

Some examples of reckless behavior that could lead to a manslaughter charge include:

  • Playing an extremely reckless game that unintentionally results in someone’s death
  • Getting into a physical fight where blows unintentionally kill the other person
  • Performing dangerous stunts that inadvertently kill a bystander
  • Grossly negligent operation of a vehicle leading to a fatal accident

The key distinction between manslaughter in the second degree and murder is that murder requires an intent to kill, while manslaughter does not. However, the reckless actions that result in death under NY Penal Law 125.15 are still treated as a very serious violent felony offense.

Penalties for Manslaughter 2nd Degree

Manslaughter in the second degree is classified as a Class C felony under New York law[3]. The potential sentences if convicted include:

  • Up to 15 years in state prison
  • Monetary fines up to $15,000
  • Post-release supervision up to 5 years

The severity of the sentence will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. But manslaughter 2nd degree is considered an extremely serious violent crime with statutory penalties on par with rape, arson, and robbery charges.

Defenses to Manslaughter in the Second Degree

There are several legal defenses that a skilled New York criminal defense lawyer may use to fight manslaughter in the second degree charges, including:

  • Lack of recklessness – Argue that the defendant’s actions did not meet the standard for recklessness under the law. For example, certain conduct may have been negligent but not reckless.
  • Lack of causation – Argue that something other than the defendant’s actions actually caused the victim’s death.
  • Self-defense – Argue the defendant was legally justified in using force to protect themselves from harm.
  • Diminished capacity – Argue the defendant lacked the mental capacity to appreciate the risks of their conduct due to mental defect or intoxication.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can carefully examine the evidence and determine if any viable defenses may apply given the specific facts of the incident. The lawyer can then advocate for dismissal of charges or acquittal at trial.

Recent Examples of Manslaughter 2nd Degree Cases

Here are some real-world examples of manslaughter in the second degree charges and convictions in New York:

  • In 2021, a man was charged with manslaughter in the second degree after engaging in a physical fight with another man outside a bar in Albany. The 60-year-old victim was knocked unconscious during the fight and later died from his injuries. Prosecutors alleged the punch was thrown recklessly and led to the man’s death.[4]
  • In 2019, a woman was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree for recklessly causing the death of a cyclist while driving drunk. The woman struck the cyclist who was riding on the shoulder of the road, killing him. Her BAC was more than twice the legal limit. She was sentenced to 1-3 years in prison.[5]
  • In 2018, a man was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree for stabbing his co-worker to death during a workplace dispute. Though he claimed self-defense, prosecutors argued he acted recklessly by using excessive force. He was sentenced to 5-15 years in prison.[6]

These cases illustrate how varied the circumstances can be that lead to someone being criminally charged for recklessly causing another person’s death under NY Penal Law 125.15. The cases also show the serious prison sentences that can result upon conviction.

Consult a New York Manslaughter Defense Lawyer

Manslaughter in the second degree is an extremely serious felony charge that can alter the rest of your life. The complex issues surrounding causation, recklessness, and justification defenses means having an experienced NY criminal defense lawyer is critical. Do not leave your fate to chance. Consult with an attorney as soon as possible if you are being investigated or charged with manslaughter 2nd degree. An attorney can carefully advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of the case and build the strongest defense to avoid harsh penalties.