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New York Penal Law 125 15 Manslaughter Second Degree

By Spodek Law Group | July 17, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 18, 2023)

Last Updated on: 18th October 2023, 09:01 am

New York Penal Law 125.15: Manslaughter in the Second Degree

New York Penal Law 125.15 defines the crime of manslaughter in the second degree. This article will explain what constitutes manslaughter in the second degree, potential penalties, and possible defenses. We’ll also discuss relevant cases and the implications of a conviction.

What is Manslaughter in the Second Degree?

Under New York law, a person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when:

  • He recklessly causes the death of another person; or
  • He commits upon a female an abortional act which causes her death, unless such abortional act is justifiable; or
  • He intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide.

Manslaughter is defined as causing someone’s death without the intent to kill them. Cases often involve recklessness, negligence, or heat of passion.

Recklessness means being aware that your actions present a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing someone’s death, but consciously disregarding that risk. A gross deviation from what a reasonable person would do in the same situation.


Manslaughter in the second degree is a class C felony in New York. If convicted, potential penalties include:

  • Up to 15 years in state prison
  • Fines up to $15,000
  • Probation up to 5 years

The judge has discretion in sentencing based on the facts of the case. Higher penalties apply if there are aggravating factors like the victim being a child or police officer.

Possible Defenses

Here are some potential defenses if charged with manslaughter in the second degree:

  • No recklessness – Argue your actions were not reckless under the legal definition. For example, if the death was a true accident that occurred without recklessness.
  • Self-defense – Argue your actions were legally justified to protect yourself from harm. The force used must be reasonable.
  • Lack of intent – For an assisted suicide charge, argue you did not intentionally aid the suicide.
  • False accusations – The allegations against you are fabricated or mistaken.

Implications of a Conviction

Being convicted of manslaughter in the second degree can significantly impact your life:

  • Long-term incarceration – Over a decade in prison is possible.
  • Felony record – This can limit jobs, housing, gun ownership rights, voting rights, and more.
  • Immigration issues – Possible deportation for non-citizens.
  • Civil lawsuits – Victim’s families may file wrongful death lawsuits.
  • Lifelong stigma – Being branded a felon and killer can follow you.
  • Psychological trauma – Many find prison traumatizing. Killing someone accidentally can also be very traumatic.

New York’s manslaughter statutes have evolved over time. Here are some key laws and precedents:

  • NY Penal Law 125.15 – The main manslaughter 2 statute passed in 1967.
  • People v. Register (1980) – Established that depraved indifference murder requires circumstances “manifesting a depraved indifference to human life.” This raised the bar for murder charges.
  • People v. Sanchez (2001) – Ruled a one punch bar fight was reckless, but not depraved indifference murder. Lead to more manslaughter 2 charges in similar cases.
  • NY Penal Law 125.25 – Increased penalties for killing police officers, firefighters, and paramedics in 2006.

Specific Defenses

Two potential manslaughter defenses involve arguing the death was an accident or in self-defense. Here is more on using these defenses:

Accident Defense

To argue the death was a true accident, you must show:

  • You were acting lawfully and with reasonable care
  • You had no intent to harm the victim
  • The death was not a foreseeable consequence of your actions

The prosecution will try to prove recklessness or negligence. Evidence like text messages or witnesses discussing your animosity towards the victim can hurt this defense.


To claim self-defense, you must show:

  • You reasonably believed physical force was necessary
  • The force used was not excessive
  • You did not provoke the confrontation

The prosecution may argue you used excessive force or could have avoided the confrontation. Strong evidence you feared for your safety is key.


Being charged with manslaughter in the second degree is extremely serious. The potential prison time if convicted is substantial, and a felony conviction can negatively impact your life in many ways. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical. They can carefully examine the evidence and determine if any viable defenses exist. An attorney may also be able to negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or a plea deal in appropriate cases. If you or a loved one are facing manslaughter charges, consult with a criminal defense lawyer right away before making any statements to police.

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