New Jersey Murder
NJ murder charges are all first-degree charges. These charges carry mandatory minimum prison terms. All murder charges involve death. Death may result from an intentional or unintentional act. When you get charged with murder, it means that you caused someone’s death. NJ murder law is broad and needs to be broken down to be understood.
Since you will go to prison for a very long time if you are convicted, nothing could be more important than understanding how NJ murder charges are classified. If you or a loved one are in this situation, get prepared for the biggest fight of your life.
In NJ, murder or homicide cases fall into three categories.
- You purposefully caused the death or serious bodily injury that resulted in death; or
- You knowingly caused death or serious bodily injury that resulted in death; or
- You caused someone to die during the commission of another crime (felony murder).
Purposefully Causing Someone's Death
“Purposefully” means that you intended to kill someone. You will face NJ murder charges if your goal or objective was to take someone’s life.
This is where the prosecutor will emphasize how you planned to be successful in achieving your goal. This is combined with premeditation or the amount of time you took to think about your actions.
Planning & premeditation are not limited to the act of taking a life but are also applied to the steps you took to get away with an NJ murder charge.
Knowingly Causing Someone's Death
Knowingly means that you were fully aware of your actions but your goal was not to take a life. In other words, you knew that lighting an explosive would cause horrific damage, but you never intended to kill a stranger located a block away from the explosion.
For NJ murder purposes, it does not matter.
Felony Murder - Death During Commission of a Felony
This is known as the “felony murder” rule. NJ murder charges will apply to you even if your actions did not kill anyone. Confusing right?
It goes like this. If you were involved in any way in committing a felony and someone dies during the commission of the felony, you will face murder charges.
As an example, let’s say that you and 2 other guys decide to rob a bank. This is called a conspiracy. The 3 of you plan the bank robbery & you’re the getaway driver. Your 2 friends rob the bank and accidentally shoot & kill someone during their escape. Even though you’re in the getaway car a block away, you will face murder charges along with your 2 friends.
You caused someone’s death but you lacked the clarity of mind to appreciate your actions.
Remember, NJ murder charges are all first-degree indictable offenses and you face 30 years to life.
However, with manslaughter charges, we start to see a decrease in mandatory prison terms.
For example, a voluntary manslaughter charge & criminal manslaughter charge are second-degree crimes.
This violent crime is best known as a “heat of passion” killing. You’ve seen “heat of passion” killings in countless movies. For example, the husband returns home early from work to find his wife in bed with his best friend. The husband loses all self-control & in a blind fury kills them both.
Voluntary manslaughter takes into consideration two important concepts:
- You acted without thinking about it (w/out premeditation); and
- You acted without advance planning
The law says that you would have to show or prove that there was “adequate provocation” & that you did not really have time to think about what you were doing.
Prison Term & Fines
A provoked, heat-of-passion manslaughter is graded as a crime of the second degree, punishable by five to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000.
Involuntary manslaughter is another violent crime. The government will charge you with this crime even if you did not intend to cause anyone’s death.
These charges involve situations where you acted with “extreme indifference to human life”.
To act with extreme indifference to human life means that you had absolutely no consideration for how your actions could injure another person. Eluding cases serve as the perfect example.
Let’s say that you get involved in a high-speed car chase with a police officer. You hate getting speeding tickets so you try to escape the patrol car. Your speed exceeds 100 mph and you lose control of your car. As a result, you crash head-on with another driver and instantly kill him.
When you set out on your chase, the last thing on your mind was killing anyone. But your actions were so extreme, that you showed that you did not care about the safety & welfare of other people.
This is a first-degree crime with a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Vehicular Homicide Or Death By Auto
This is a situation where you committed a homicide caused by the reckless operation of your car (or boat).
For example, if you killed someone while driving drunk, you will be charged with this crime.
This is a second-degree crime.
You or a loved one have been arrested. Understandably, you are terrified & have a lot of questions. You’ve heard about plea bargains & probation, but the process is overwhelming. You want a local attorney near you to represent you.
Mr. Peyrouton is from Ridgewood & handles all types of criminal matters in New Jersey complex as well as nearby cities. The New Jersey Law Journal recently published one of his articles on the subject of criminal law.
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