30 Jun 20

NY Penal Law § 125.20: Manslaughter in the First Degree

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Last Updated on: 5th August 2023, 01:15 am

If any actions that you take result in the death of another individual, even if it was not your intention that the person die, you could be charged with a serious criminal offense.  The criminal offense of manslaughter can be distinguied from the crime of murder in that manslaughter is defined in the criminal code as brinign about someone’s death without the intent to do so, while murder requires intent. Manslaughter cases generally tend to involve recklessness, negligence, or heat of passion.  You could be prosecuted for manslaughter in the first degree under New York Penal Law § 125.20 if:

  1. With the intention of causing serious physical injury to another individual, the actions you take do, in fact, cause the death of that person,
  2. With intent to bring about the death of another person, you cause the death of such person or that of a third party while operating under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance,
  3. You carry out an illegal abortion on a woman who is more than 24 weeks pregnant and the woman dies as a resulg, or
  4. You engage in any behavior that exposes a child who is younger than 11 years old to substantial risk of serious physical injury and, as a result, the child dies.

A Case Law Example

The defendant in this case, Anthony Oddone, and his girlfriend were in a bar dancing on top of a table. The bouncer in the bar, Andrew Reister, ordered Oddone to get down off of the table. When Oddone refused to get down and, in retaliation, Reister pushed him off, a fight ensued between Mr. Oddone and Mr. Resiter. In the heat of the battle, Mr. Oddone put Mr. Reister into a headlock. After a while, Mr. Oddone felt that Mr. Reister’s body had become limp.  Mr. Oddone released his grip, and Mr. Reister fell to the ground, appearing to have lost consciousness.  Sadly, Mr. Reister was later declared brain dead and he soon passed away. Mr. Oddone was convicted on the charge of manslaughter in the first degree. People v. Oddone, 2013 NY Slip Op 8291 (N.Y., 2013)

Offenses that are Related

Manslaughter in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 125.15

Criminally negligent homicide: New York Penal Law § 125.10

Possible Defenses

If you have been charged with manslaughter in the first degree on the basis  having the intent to bring about serious physical injury against the victim, if the prosecutor is unable to demonstrate that your intent was to cause an injury that was so horrible that there was substantial risk of death, protracted disfigurement, or the protracted or permanent loss of a bodily organ, then you could not be convicted on this charge. Therefore, a valid defense would be to demonstrate that you had no intentions of causing the victim any serious physical injury. A good alternative defense would be to demonstrate that you did not intend to injure the victim at all, but that the circumstance that led to the victim’s death was an accident.

The Sentence

Since manslaughter in the first degree is categorized as a class B felony, if you are convicted you could be sent to serve up to 25 years in state prison.  You could also be ordered to pay a substantial fine.