Manslaughter in the Second Degree

Manslaughter in the Second Degree: New York Penal Law §125.15

It should come as no surprise that prosecutors and the NYPD take homicide cases extremely seriously. They are usually investigated by the most competent detectives and handled by the most seasoned and experienced prosecutors. Consequently, whenever a person is charged with any homicide charge, the case must be given appropriate consideration.

In New York, the most common situation in which a prosecutor charges Manslaughter in the Second Degree is what is referred to as a "Reckless Homicide." What this means is that the prosecutor is not required to prove that the person actually intended to kill anyone, they just need to establish that the person's conduct was so reckless that they knew, or should have known, that their actions caused a substantial risk of death, they acted anyway, and their actions led to a person dying.

Rather than establishing an intent to kill another person, these types of cases are often decided by whether or not the prosecutor can establish that the circumstances surrounding the individual's conduct were so inherently risky that there is no way that the person can reasonably claim they did not know someone would die. The most classic example of Manslaughter in the Second Degree is a person pointing a loaded gun towards a crowd of people and firing. Even if the shooter did not intend for any specific person to die, a prosecutor can argue that they knew that there was a substantial likelihood that their actions would result in a death.

But the reality is that most scenarios are not as clear as a person firing a gun into a crowd. Consequences are frequently unforeseen, or at least not readily predictable, and just because something tragic happens does not necessarily mean that the person who caused it had reason to know it would. Frequently, the strongest defense to these types of cases is that while the individual does not contest that they are the person whose actions caused another to die, there is simply no way that they could have predicted that result. Under the law, a person cannot be found guilty of Manslaughter in the Second Degree if no reasonable person would have expected that what they did would cause somebody to die. Accidents happen, it is an unfortunate fact of life, but it does not mean that a person needs to spend significant time in jail for an unlikely and remote event.

Our office has represented a physician who was charged under this statute when a patient passed away a few hours after being discharged following an outpatient surgical procedure. Despite the fact that the patient lied on the medical history form and did not disclose pre-existing conditions which significantly increased the risk of the surgery, and which likely caused the complications the patient experienced, the prosecutor determined that the act of discharging the patient was so reckless that the physician knew, or should have known, that there was a substantial risk that the patient would die as a result. In addition to the stress of worrying about potentially being incarcerated, the physician lost his medical license, and with it, his livelihood. Physicians, their assistants, nurses, and other medical personnel who are tasked with providing aid to the sick and injured in a fragile state need to be cognizant that their lives can be utterly devastated by what a non-medical professional - the prosecutor - determines to be reckless medical care.

Manslaughter in the Second Degree is a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in an upstate prison. This is a considerable amount of time to potentially spend behind bars for a death that may have been nothing more than a tragic accident.

If you have been charged with Manslaughter in the Second Degree, hiring a top New York attorney must be your immediate priority. It is important to retain an attorney who can analyze the circumstances which lead to the death, and can then articulate to a prosecutor or a jury how no reasonable person could have predicted the outcome. Having a clear, concise, and easily understood narrative of the events, with a strong focus on how remote the possibility of death was and how no reasonable person would have expected it, can be the difference between walking out the front door of the courthouse with your freedom, or being taken out the back door to the bus leading upstate.

At the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman, our experienced New York Homicide and Manslaughter attorneys have successfully handled a wide variety of scenarios leading to individuals being charged with Manslaughter in the Second Degree. We know how to examine every angle of a situation, and emphasize the aspects which show just how improbable a death would be. Call us today at (212) 581 - 1001 for a free case evaluation.