Criminal Law
Difference Between Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter in New York

Difference Between Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter in New York

On Behalf of vitalianolaw | Feb 02, 2023 |

Being accused of causing another person’s death is one of the most serious criminal charges possible. In New York, causing the death of another individual can be classified as murder or manslaughter in different degrees, depending on the circumstances of the case. You may be facing these kinds of allegations. Perhaps you have lost someone you loved during a crime in New York. In either situation, it is important to understand the different legal aspects of the circumstances at hand.

Homicide, Murder, and Manslaughter: What’s the Difference?

Homicide, murder, and manslaughter are three different legal terms used in criminal cases when one person causes the death of another. Homicide involves different cases of an individual causing another person’s death. Manslaughter and murder are two different forms of homicide.


Homicide is legally defined as the act of one person killing another or an omission by one individual that ultimately kills another person. It is a broad term that includes both criminal and non-criminal deaths. This is why it is often confused with manslaughter and murder. The term “homicide” may be used to describe a killing that was in self-defense or in the case of an illegal murder taking place. In general, homicide is a less-specific term for deaths in which other people were involved.


While manslaughter is a form of homicide, it differs from murder in that the offender did not have the intention to kill another person. There are two main forms of manslaughter in New York:

  • 1st Degree (Voluntary Manslaughter): Voluntary manslaughter is often referred to as a “crime of passion.” This is because the offense did not involve the intention of killing someone, but the defendant was provoked enough to fight back and cause the death of the provoker. This occurs because the individual did not take the time to calm down. In the heat of the argument, they ultimately killed the other person, even though they just intended to harm them.
  • 2nd Degree (Involuntary Manslaughter): 2nd degree manslaughter is otherwise known as involuntary manslaughter. It refers to the unintentional killing of another human, usually due to negligent or reckless behavior. However, there are other actions that can also be considered involuntary manslaughter. These include performing an abortion that results in the death of the mother or intentionally influencing another person to commit suicide.


The most basic definition of murder states that it is the illegal act of killing another person. In most murder cases, the defendant clearly intended to kill another person and succeeded. Because of this, the legal consequences for murder are much more severe. However, a killing does not always have to be premeditated for it to be considered murder. The two main forms of murder in New York are:

  • 1st Degree Murder: This is the most serious murder charge in the state. For an individual to be charged with and convicted of 1st degree murder, the prosecution must prove that the killing was premeditated, that the defendant deliberated on it, and that they had the willingness to commit the crime. This means that the defendant thought about the murder beforehand, was fully aware of the consequences that would occur if they were caught, and still committed an intentional act of killing someone. Because 1st degree murder is the most violent homicide charge, it is often reserved for extreme cases of murder. For example, an individual who plans the brutal murder of a child and carries it out will most likely be charged with 1st degree murder in New York.For defendants 18 and older, they can face anywhere from 20+ years to life in prison without the possibility of parole if they are convicted.
  • 2nd Degree Murder: An individual can be charged with 2nd degree murder in a variety of circumstances. In New York, an individual must have had the intent to kill someone, recklessly caused the death of another person while showing no regard for other human life, murdered someone as a result of another crime (such as burglary), or murdered a minor under the age of 11 during a sex crime to be charged with 2nd degree murder.For defendants 18 and older, they can face anywhere from 15 years to life in prison if they are convicted.


Q: What Is Felony Murder?

A: Felony murder is a common law used in most states to help legally broaden the definition of murder. This legislation was implemented in New York Penal Law, Section 125.25. This states that murder committed while committing specific felonies is classified as 2nd degree murder. This is a severe offense that will require a very skilled defense attorney.

Q: How Can You Tell the Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder?

A: The biggest difference between manslaughter and murder is whether there was an intent to actually kill the person who is now deceased. If the defendant had no intention of killing someone and showed remorse, they would most likely be charged with manslaughter. If the defendant clearly created a plan and intended to kill the deceased, they will be charged with murder in the state of New York.

Q: What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?

A: Vehicular manslaughter is a specific type of homicide where there was no intent to kill someone. However, the driver of a vehicle was driving recklessly and disregarded the risks they were aware of. For example, if someone decides to drive drunk and ultimately causes another person’s death, they can be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Q: Does New York Have the Death Penalty?

A: Currently, as of 2024, the death penalty is illegal in New York. This means that a person cannot be sentenced to death because they committed murder. The maximum sentence for this offense is life in prison without parole. This is still a severe penalty and will require an expert defense attorney to avoid it.

Staten Island Criminal Defense Experts

Here at The Vitaliano Law Firm, our team has spent years working in criminal law and defending difficult cases like homicide. If you need a qualified criminal defense lawyer that you can trust to represent you and your rights, do not hesitate to reach out to our team today.