New Jersey Criminal Homicide Law
New Jersey Criminal Homicide Law is divided into three categories: murder, manslaughter and death by auto.
Under New Jersey criminal homicide law there are three forms of murder: purposeful, knowing and in the course of committing or attempting to commit certain felonies.
Murder is a crime of the first degree.
In a purposely or knowingly caused murder the state must prove three material elements.
First, it must be proved that a person died.
Second, it must be proved that the defendant caused the death or serious bodily injury which resulted in death.
Third, it must be proved that the defendant acted purposely or knowingly.
It is the defendant's subjective - personal / individual - state of mind which determines whether the homicide is murder.
The state must prove that it was defendant's conscious objective to cause death or serious bodily injury - purposeful - or that defendant acted with an awareness that the death or serious bodily injury was almost certain to result from his conduct - knowingly.
Purpose and Knowing in a murder prosecution is not provable by direct evidence, so it is gathered from other proof such as conduct of the defendant or the use of a deadly weapon capable of producing death, like a gun or knife.
Purposely causing serious bodily injury which results in death is enough for a murder conviction.
The state must prove that the defendant caused the death of another and that the death was within the design or contemplation of the defendant.
Intoxication and insanity are defenses to murder because they disproves that a defendant acted purposely or knowingly.
The state does not have to prove that defendant had a motive to kill, however, proof of motive may be evidence of a purposeful or knowing killing.
Although the state must prove that a human being died, the failure of the state to produce the victim's body does not preclude a finding that the victim died as death may also be proved by direct or circumstantial evidence.
Under New Jersey criminal homicide law criminal homicide also constitutes murder when the defendant acting either alone or with one or more other persons is engaged in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit robbery, sexual assault, arson, burglary, kidnapping, carjacking, or criminal escape, and in the course of such crime or the immediate flight therefrom causes the death of a person other than one of the participants.
Defendant who was a mere participant who did not commit nor solicited or commanded the act that caused the death can raise a defense to murder if he was not armed with a deadly weapon, had no reasonable ground to believe that any other participant was armed with such a weapon and no reasonable ground to believe that any participant intended to engage in conduct likely to result in death.
Under New Jersey criminal homicide law there are three forms of manslaughter: aggravated, reckless and passion as a result of reasonable provocation.
Aggravated manslaughter is a crime of the first degree.
Reckless manslaughter and passion as a result of reasonable provocation manslaughter are second degree crimes.
These are all lesser offenses of purposeful and knowing murder.
In an aggravated manslaughter charge the state must prove that defendant caused the death of another under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.
Manslaughter is divided into two categories: Recklessly and heat of passion as a result of reasonable provocation.
To prove recklessness the state must show that defendant had a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would result from his conduct and such disregard involved gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the defendant's situation.
If the killing was caused by the negligence - accidental - of the defendant then there is no crime because negligence does not rise to the level of recklessness.
In a heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation case, the provocation must be so gross as to cause the ordinary reasonable person to lose his self control and to use violence with fatal results.
The provocation must be adequate; the defendant must not have had time to cool off between the provocation and the slaying; and the provocation must have actually impassioned the defendant.
Words alone no matter how offensive or insulting do not constitute provocation.
Although under New Jersey criminal homicide law intoxication is a defense to murder because it disproves that a defendant acted purposely or knowingly it is not a defense to aggravated manslaughter nor manslaughter to show he was unaware of a risk of which he should have been aware had he been sober.
Under New Jersey criminal homicide law Death by auto is criminal death caused by driving one's vehicle recklessly.
A defendant acts recklessly when she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death by auto will result from her conduct.
Intoxication is not a defense because drunk driving is evidence that defendant drove recklessly.
Upon a New Jersey criminal homicide conviction the following mitigating factors may be offered to the trial Judge which may lower the sentence:
Defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance, or significantly impaired as a result of mental illness or unusual duress which was insufficient to constitute a defense to murder;
victim participated or consented to the conduct which resulted in his death;
age of defendant at the time of murder;
no significant history of prior criminal activity;
cooperation with the state in the prosecution of another person for murder;
any other factor that is relevant to the character, record of defendant or circumstances of the case.
Upon a New Jersey criminal homicide conviction the court will also consider the following aggravating factors:
Any prior murder committed by the defendant;
in commission of the murder defendant knowingly or purposely created a grave risk to another person in addition to the victim;
murder was outrageous, vile, horrible, inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity or aggravated assault;
murder committed in expectation of financial gain;
murder committed in expectation of financial payment;
murder committed to escape detection, apprehension, trial or punishment;
murder committed against a public servant while engaged in public service;
murder committed by a narcotics enterprise leader while engaged in said enterprise;
murder committed against a victim less than fourteen years old.
Did You Know
It is a first degree crime if a person manufactures, distributes or dispenses certain drugs and a death results from the injection, inhalation or ingestion of the substance.
The statute of limitations does not apply to the crimes of murder, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter.
General rule is that a homicide is neither murder nor manslaughter if it is justified or excused such as in the case of self defense.
However, to win on Self defense defendant must establish that his or her belief was honest, made in good faith and reasonable that it was necessary to save his or her own life.
Humanitarian motives - victim is in terminal condition - do not justify the taking of human life.
If you have any questions for a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer about a New Jersey Criminal homicide charge, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1 complaints and indictments filed in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Somerset County, Essex County, Union County, and Hudson County, please do not hesitate to contact us.