Under New York Law, Criminally Negligent Homicide is charged when you cause another person’s death and do so with with criminal negligence. Unlike New York Homicide or New York Manslaughter charges, your conduct does not need to be intentional or even reckless. Rather, acting in a way that fails to recognize a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death, that a reasonable person would observe would establish the necessary intent. There are two Criminally Negligent Homicide charges in New York. They are:
Both charges are felonies and can therefore result in jail time of over a year. The difference between these charges is explained below.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
New York Criminally Negligent Homicide statute comes from Article 125 of the New York Penal Law, which contains all New York Homicide Offenses and other related charges. Criminally Negligent Homicide statute can be found in Section 125.10 of the New York Penal Law. In order to convict someone of this criminal charge, the prosecutor must prove that the actor:
- Caused the death of another person, AND
- Did so with criminal negligence.
What is the Definition of Criminal Negligence?
While the second element of this charge is straight forward, the definition of what is criminal negligence requires some explanation. The definition of “Criminal Negligence” comes from New York Penal Law Section 15.05(4). This section contains definitions of all culpable mental states – i.e. intentional, reckless, negligent.
Under New York Penal Law Section 15.05(4), a person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a result or to a circumstance when s/he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. For an individual to act with criminal negligence, it is not enough that a risk the action was not recognized. Rather, the risk must be of “substantial and unjustifiable” nature.
What is a Substantial and Unjustifiable Risk?
A “substantial and unjustifiable” risk is a risk of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.
What is the legal definition of a “reasonable person?”
Across many different legal practice areas, the term “reasonable person” is used. This “reasonable person” is present in personal injury cases, contract disputes, as well as criminal law. A “reasonable person” as a fictional person who has “ordinary prudence.” It is an individual who approaches any legal situation with appropriate amount of caution and takes appropriate action.
Example of Criminally Negligent Homicide
A hypothetical example of conduct that can be charged as criminally negligent homicide is a bus driver operating a commercial bus with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, and getting into a motor vehicle accident which results in the death of passengers.
A real life example of a case charged as Criminally Negligent Homicide is a case in Erie County, in which an individual passed away after being pushed to the ground in a dispute over wearing a face mask.
Penalties and Sentencing for Criminally Negligent Homicide
Under New York Law, Criminally Negligent Homicide is a Class “E” Non-Violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:
- Jail time up to 1 1/3 to 4 years (indeterminate sentence);
- A determinate jail sentence of 1 year or less;
- A Split sentence (jail time of 6 months or less, rest of the time probation);
- Probation (up to 5 years);
- Conditional discharge (some conditions imposed by the Court – i.e. staying out of trouble, completion of community service or a program);
- Unconditional Discharge (no conditions imposed by the Court/as part of the plea).
Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide
When a person causes a death of a peace officer or a police officer with criminal negligence, a higher level crime can be charged. This New York crime is called Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide, and is a Class “C” Felony.
Elements of Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide
Under New York Law, the elements of Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide under New York Penal Law Section 125.11 are:
- With criminal negligence;
- He or she causes the death of a police officer or peace officer
- When such officer was in the course of performing his or her official duties; AND
- The defendant knew or reasonably should have known that such victim was a police officer or a peace officer.
Penalties and Sentencing for Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide
Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide is a Class “C” Violent Felony. This charge is punishable by 3 1/2 to 15 years in prison. Probation, conditional discharge or a determinate sentence of less than 3.5 years are not authorized sentences for this New York charge.
Frequently Asked Questions re: NY Criminally Negligent Homicide
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding these New York criminal charges.
1. What is the Statute of Limitations on New York Criminally Negligent Homicide Charge?
The statute of limitations for New York Criminally Negligent Homicide and Aggravated Criminally Negligent Homicide is 5 years. However, that time period can be tolled by the Defendant’s absence from the jurisdiction. Additionally, this time can be tolled by a suspension of the Statute of Limitations. Importantly, if the case is being charged past the statute of limitations, the defense must object to the untimely prosecution. Otherwise, the statute of limitations cannot be raised as a defense.
2. How is a Criminally Negligent Homicide Different from New York Manslaughter or Homicide Charges?
These charges differ from one another based on the actor’s intent. Although the conduct may be similar, and another individual’s death may be caused by the defendant, it is the intent that distinguishes these charges. The following intent is required for these charges:
- For New York Homicide charges, the defendant must intend to cause the death of a person and cause the death of that person or a third person.
- For New York Manslaughter charges, the defendant must cause the death of another person (1) recklessly; (2) with intent to cause serious physical injury or (3) with intent to cause death under the circumstances evincing an extreme emotional disturbance.
- For New York Criminally Negligent Homicide charges, the death must be caused with criminal negligence.
3. What Are Some Potential Defenses to Criminally Negligent Homicide Charges?
First and foremost, each case is different and you need to consult a top rated New York City criminal defense attorney to start mounting a defense. However, common defenses to criminally negligent homicide charges are:
- Self defense although someone died, your actions are justified as you were acting in self defense.
- Mistaken Identity – you were not the person who caused the individual’s death.
- Lack of evidence – the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to prove all the elements of these charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
4. What Are Some High Profile New York Criminally Negligent Homicide Cases?
Some high profile New York Criminally Negligent Homicide cases are:
- PSNY v. Hussain – a 2018 limousine crash which killed 17 passengers, the driver and two bystanders due to faulty breaks and repeat failed inspections. The matter is scheduled for trial.
- PSNY v. Rodriguez – a 2019 Bronx County case in which the father tragically left his two infant children in a hot car. He was charged with criminally negligent homicide. Case ultimately resolved itself with a plea to two counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
- PSNY v. Moses – a 2019 Kings County case, in which the jury rejected murder charges and convicted Mr. Moses of Criminally Negligent Homicide and Concealment of a Corpse. Mr. Moses was accused of murdering his girlfriend, dismembering her, and keeping her head and feet in a freezer.
5. What is the Likely Outcome of My Criminally Negligent Homicide Case?
Some of these cases resolve themselves with plea to the charge. Others get pleaded down to a less serious charge. Yet some others end up in outright dismissals for a variety of reasons. Some common reasons for dismissals are:
- Speedy trial time;
- Case is past the statute of limitations;
- The prosecution can’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
For a better assessment of what will happen to your case, contact us today.
Contact Top Rated New York Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide, you need experienced trial attorneys to handle your case. Even if your case doesn’t go to trial, you need top rated criminal defense attorneys to develop an effective defense and minimize any potential criminal exposure. Schedule your initial case consultation to start defending your case today.