Second degree murder occurs if a person commits one of the following:
- causes the death of a person with the intent to do so;
- engaged in reckless conduct that created a grave risk of death to another person, thereby causing their death;
- commits felony murder (causes the death of a non-participant while committing a felony).
Note that what distinguishes second degree felony murder from first degree felony murder is that first-degree felony murder requires intent to kill the alleged victim or another non-participant in the crime, while second degree felony murder requires only the defendant's intent to commit one of the predicate felonies (robbery, burglary, kidnapping, arson, rape, sexual abuse). Also, first degree felony murder requires that the defendant personally caused the alleged victim's death, while second degree felony murder merely requires that the defendant be an accomplice of the actual killer in order to be charged.
In addition to murder, manslaughter is another type of homicide addressed under the law. Manslaughter, which can be voluntary or involuntary, generally involves a defendant who recklessly caused the death of another or causes their death due to an intent to cause serious physical injury.
According to New York Penal Code Section 125.20, some incidents of first degree manslaughter include:
- the death of a third person (with intent to cause death) while the defendant is under the influence of “extreme emotional disturbance;"
- an unjustified abortion act upon a female pregnant for more than 24 weeks which causes her death; or
- reckless conduct with intention to cause serious physical injury that creates such a grave risk of serious physical injury to a person less than 11 years old and thereby causes their death.
First degree manslaughter rises to the aggravated first degree manslaughter level if:
- the defendant intended to cause serious physical injury to a police officer or peace officer engaged in the course of their official duties and consequently causes the death of such an officer while knowing their status; or
- the defendant intended to cause the death of a police officer or peace officer and recklessly caused the death of the officer while under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance.
Voluntary manslaughter in New York is charged as a Class B felony punishable by 5-25 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. For an aggravated offense, the prison time increases to 10-30 years.
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