What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in New Jersey?

handcuffs with fingerprints

It is a common misconception that murder and manslaughter are interchangeable terms. In fact, the two crimes have different legal definitions and result in different penalties. Continue reading to learn what distinguishes the two, and how a seasoned Middlesex County violent crime attorney at the Law Offices of Michael A. Policastro can help you navigate your charges.

How does New Jersey define murder?

New Jersey law defines murder as when you act deliberately or intentionally killing. In this state murder can be charged in the following three scenarios:

  • You purposely caused death or serious bodily injury resulting in death.
  • You knowingly caused death or serious bodily injury resulting in death.
  • You caused death while committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing from the scene of another crime, such as robbery, sexual assault, arson, kidnapping, carjacking, burglary, terrorism, or criminal escape.

The state considers murder as a first-degree felony, and the penalty is usually anywhere between 30 years to life in prison. However, the penalties can potentially be increased with the following circumstances:

  • The victim was a police officer.
  • The victim was younger than 14 years old and was a victim of sexual assault or other sex crimes.
  • The murder was committed for financial gain.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, your murder charge may be reduced to a manslaughter charge. For this reason, it is crucial that you retain the services of one of the knowledgeable Middlesex County criminal defense attorneys who have experience with negotiating such charges.

How does New Jersey define manslaughter?

The following are circumstances in which you will be charged with manslaughter instead of murder in New Jersey:

  • You committed a killing recklessly, instead of purposely or knowingly. In other words, you placed another person’s safety in danger by engaging in risky behavior without any reasonable cause.
  • You committed a killing in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation.

Manslaughter is considered a second-degree crime and is subject to five to 10 years in prison.

What is aggravated manslaughter?

Aggravated manslaughter is considered a more serious crime than manslaughter, as it involves you recklessly causing death under circumstances that display extreme indifference to human life or causing death while fleeing or attempting to flee a law enforcement officer. Even though it is considered a first-degree crime, it carries different penalties than murder, at 10 to 30 years in prison.

Contact our experienced New Jersey firm

When someone is charged with a crime, they have a lot to consider. However, we understand that everyone makes mistakes, which is why we are here to help. No matter your circumstances, if you are facing criminal charges, contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Policastro today for the experienced legal counsel you deserve and need.

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