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NY Penal Law § 125.22: Aggravated Manslaughter in the First Degree

July 1, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Killing a police officer or peace officer is a serious crime. This is the case even if you did not intend to kill the officer, but your actions indicated that you did intend to injure the officer. Under New York Penal Law § 125.22 you could be prosecuted for aggravated manslaughter in the first degree if:

  1. With the intention of cause serious physical injury to a police officer or peace officer carrying out his or her official duties, you cause the death of that officer, or
  2. With the intention of causing the death of a police officer or peace officer in the process of carrying out his or her official duties, you bring about the death of such officer or another officer while you act under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance.

Example

Kiera and Usman met up at a wine bar. They spent a few hours together, eating, drinking and talking.  Later that evening, Usman asked Kiera to go home with him. Kiera said no. The two of them walked out of the wine bar together, and Usman offered to walk Kiera to her car. As they approached Kiera’s car and she was taking out her keys, Usman repeatedly asked Kiera to go back to his place with him. Kiera became annoyed and she started to push him away. Feeling like he would violate her if she didn’t show some force, she picked a bottle up from the ground and hit Usman on the head with it. The glass shattered and she watched as Usman fell to the ground. Kiera panicked, jumped into her car and drove away. Usman later died from the severe wounds to his head. Usman was an off duty police officer. In this scenario, Kiera could not be prosecuted for aggravated manslaughter in the first degree.  At the time that she hit him, Usman was not in the process of performing any official police duties. On top of that, it is not completely clear whether Kiera’s intent was to seriously injure Usman.

Offenses that are Related

Aggravated manslaughter in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 125.21

Aggravated criminally negligent homicide: New York Penal Law § 125.15

Possible Defenses

Should you get charged with aggravated manslaughter in the first degree on the basis of having the intent to cause the officer a serious physical injury, the prosecutor must demonstrate to the court that your intent was to bring about an injury that was so serious that there was substantial risk of death, protracted disfigurement or protracted loss of a bodily organ. Indeed, your actions may have ended up in the death of a police officer.  That fact notwithstanding, it is not clear evidence that your intent was to inflict a serious physical injury on the officer. If your intent was to inflict a minor injury on the officer or no injury at all, then you have a defense against a charge of aggravated manslaughter in the first degree.

On top of that, if you had no way of knowing that the victim was a police officer, or if the officer was not in the course of performing his or her official duty, then a charge of aggravated manslaughter in the first degree would not be valid.

The Sentence

Because aggravated manslaughter in the first degree is classified as a class B felony, if you are convicted, you could get sentenced to as much as 25 years in state prison and be required to pay a substantial fine.

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