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NY Penal Law § 125.27: Murder in the First Degree

July 1, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

If you cause the death of another person with intent to do so, you will face a homicide charge. There are a number of different offenses in the New York criminal code connected with the crime of taking the life of another person.  These include homicide, manslaughter and murder. Of all of the offenses that are related to homicide, the most heinous are murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and aggravated murder. Each of these is a class A-I felony.  What this means to you is that if you are convicted, you could be sentenced to life in prison. Under New York Penal Law § 125.27 you could face prosecution for murder in the first degree if any of the following conditions exist:

  1. You intentionally brought about the death of another individual and the victim was a police officer engaged in performing his or her official duties,
  2. You intentionally brought about the death of another individual and the victim was a firefighter, emergency medical technician, paramedic, ambulance driver, physician or registered nurse responding to an emergency,
  3. You intentionally brought about the death of another individual and the victim was an employee of a state correctional facility (such as a corrections officer) performing his or her official duties,
  4. You intentionally brought about the death of a witness to a prior crime for the purpose of preventing the witness from testifying or in revenge for the testimony the witness already gave,
  5. You intentionally brought about the death of another individual for profit,
  6. You brought about the death of another individual in furtherance of the commission of another serious felony, such as kidnapping in the first degree, arson in the first degree or rape in the first degree,
  7. You brought about the death of another individual and you had previously been convicted of murder in the second degree, or
  8. You brought about the death of another individual under the conditions that showed that you had a depraved indifference for human life.

Example

Irv and Jerry kidnap wealthy socialite Tricia.  They make a demand for $500,000 in ransom money for her return. So as to prevent her from escaping, Irv hits Tricia on the head with the butt of his gun. Tricia dies from the wound he inflicted. In this scenario, both Irv and Jerry could be prosecuted for murder in the first degree.  This is because they both committed kidnapping in the first degree and Tricia was killed in the process of the kidnapping.

Offenses that are Related

Murder in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 125.25

Aggravated murder: New York Penal Law § 125.26

Possible Defenses

Self-defense is a key defense strategy against a charge of murder in the second degree. This defense tactic is otherwise referred to as justification. If you can somehow demonstrate that the killing was the result of a reasonable use of force to defend yourself against a plausible fear that your own life was in peril, then you could very well have a defense against a murder in the first degree charge.

 Alternatively, if causing the victim’s death was unintentional, you may have a defense. That said, under some circumstances, such as if the death takes place during the commission of a felony such as kidnapping in the first degree, saying that the killing was accidental may not be a successful defense.

The Sentence

Akin to aggravated murder and murder in the second degree, murder in the first degree is one of the few crimes in New York that is in the category of class A-I felony. If you are convicted of this crime, you could spend the rest of your life behind bars. The minimum sentence you would serve would be 15-40 years.

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