Like other states, the crime of manslaughter is a complicated one here in New Jersey. It takes a variety of forms, which can be confusing for many people who face this charge.
The one thing everyone seems to agree on when it comes to a manslaughter charge is that the accused did not intend to kill another human being. After that, it helps to understand authorities' theory on the crime to understand what you face and how to best prepare a defense.
How many different types of manslaughter does New Jersey recognize?
The preliminary determination is whether the law views the death as voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. When it comes to the latter, you have to look at the totality of the circumstances. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person engages in an illegal act, and through that recklessness or negligence, someone dies. For example, if you caused an accident while intoxicated (the illegal act) and someone dies, you could face this charge.
Voluntary manslaughter differs in that some form of provocation led to the death, or the death occurred "in the heat of passion." New Jersey recognizes four types of voluntary manslaughter:
- Reckless manslaughter
- Aggravated manslaughter
- Aggravated manslaughter while evading the police
- Heat of passion brought on by reasonable provocation
The term "reasonable provocation" means that, under the circumstances, any reasonable, ordinary person would have responded the same way. The provocation must be extraordinary, flagrant or glaring. To use a popular example from movies and television, if one spouse saw the other spouse engaging in sexual relations with a third party. The term "reckless" indicates that the actions of the accused exhibited a reckless disregard for the risk involved. For instance, an ordinary, reasonable person would consider driving 100 mph as reckless.
The stakes are high
As a second-degree felony, you face fines up to $150,000 and imprisonment of five to 10 years. If prosecutors charge you with first-degree manslaughter, you could face fines up to $200,000 and spend 10 to 30 years in a New Jersey prison. If you face a charge for voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, much more than just your freedom is at stake. A conviction will follow you for the rest of your life. You could face problems finding gainful employment, housing and more.
Like others who have faced manslaughter charges, obtaining experienced criminal defense help as quickly as possible would prove greatly beneficial. You have the right to legal representation, and it would be in your best interests to take advantage of it.