What is the Heat of the Moment Affirmative Defense in New York?

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What is the Heat of the Moment Affirmative Defense in New York?


Any time you are accused of taking the life of another you are in big trouble. Sometimes the only way out of that trouble is to minimize it as much as possible.

The “heat of the moment” defense is an affirmative defense, but only in the sense that it helps you reduce the severity of a crime you’ve been accused of. We’d use it when you are accused of murder in the hopes of getting the court to agree to a manslaughter charge instead.

What is murder in New York?

In New York, murder is a Class A-1 felony.

Murder in the second degree is the intentional killing of another person, causing the death of another person by showing a “depraved indifference to human life” while acting recklessly, or killing someone while committing a different felony such as robbery, arson, rape, or kidnapping. It is punishable by 15 years to life in a state prison. 

For the prosecution to charge you with murder in the first degree, they must prove that the intended victim was an officer of the law or a judge, that you were serving a life sentence when you killed the other person, you intentionally killed that person while leaving the scene of a felony, you committed an act of torture murder, you were committing an act of terrorism, or you were committing a murder for hire. It is punishable by 20 years to life. 

What is manslaughter in New York? 

Manslaughter is a lighter crime that still deals with the death of another human being.

If you are accused of second degree manslaughter you are accused of killing a person you did not intend to kill by acting in a dangerous, reckless manner. It is only a Class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

An example might be this Brooklyn man, whose 10-month old got into his drug stash somehow and died of a fatal overdose.

Manslaughter in the first degree, or voluntary manslaughter, is a charge that suggests you intended to harm the other person but killed them instead. For example, if you severely beat another person intending to “teach them a lesson” and they died as a result, you could be charged with this crime. This is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

An example would be the case of Quinton O. Turner of Buffalo who stabbed a victim multiple times in a dispute over money. Turner went to the victim’s place of business intending to get money, but stabbed him in a fit of fury. 

Heat of the Moment

The “heat of the moment” defense says you were overwhelmed with emotion and can get a charge reduced to voluntary manslaughter. While this is still not a good charge to be convicted of it at least does take the possibility of life imprisonment off the table. However, to use it you would have to plead guilty to ending another person’s life.

Is it the right defense for you? Only your lawyer can tell, and only after a thorough review of your case and the evidence against you. If you’re in trouble don’t try to defend yourself by discussing your motivations or emotions with anyone. Instead, contact us to schedule a case review as soon as possible.

See also:

When Is it Smart to Take a Plea Deal?

Is an Insanity Plea a Good Defense?

Is Self-Defense a Slam Dunk Defense? 


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