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New York Penal Law 125 25 Murder 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 125.25: Murder in the Second Degree

Murder in the second degree is one of the most serious crimes someone can be charged with in New York. It involves intentionally or recklessly causing the death of another person under certain circumstances. While self-defense can sometimes be used as a defense, murder in the second degree is a class A-I felony with very harsh penalties. This article will provide an overview of the law, examples, related offenses, defenses, and penalties for NY Penal Law 125.25.

The Law Explained

New York Penal Law 125.25 states that a person is guilty of murder in the second degree when:

  1. With intent to cause the death of another person, he or she causes the death of that person or a third person. However, it is an affirmative defense that:
    • The defendant acted under extreme emotional disturbance with a reasonable explanation or excuse. This does not apply if the disturbance was due to discovering the victim’s sexual orientation, gender, etc.
    • The defendant caused or aided another person in committing suicide without using duress or deception. This does not apply to manslaughter charges.
  2. Under circumstances showing a depraved indifference to human life, the defendant recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death to another person and causes that person’s death.
  3. Acting alone or with others, the defendant commits or attempts robbery, burglary, kidnapping, arson, rape, criminal sexual act, sexual abuse, escape, etc. and during that crime causes the death of someone other than the participants. However, it is a defense that the defendant did not commit the homicidal act, solicit it, intend to kill, or have reasonable grounds to believe another participant would engage in conduct likely to result in death or serious injury.
  4. Being 18 or older, the defendant recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of serious injury or death to a person under 11 and causes that person’s death.
  5. Being 18 or older, the defendant intentionally causes the death of someone under 14 while committing rape, criminal sexual act, sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse, or incest against that person.

Examples of Second Degree Murder

There are a few examples that can help explain what constitutes murder in the second degree:

  • John brutally beats his wife Mary during an argument with the intent to kill her. The beating leads to Mary’s death a few days later. This would be second degree murder under the first provision since John intended to cause Mary’s death.
  • Amanda is driving drunk at 90 mph down a residential street. She smashes into another car, killing the driver. Her reckless driving showed a depraved indifference to human life, falling under the second provision.
  • Brian breaks into an elderly woman’s home to rob her. When she tries to call the police, Brian hits her in the head with a heavy object, killing her. Since this happened during the commission of a burglary, Brian committed second degree murder under the third provision.
  • Steven, 19 years old, watches his 6 year old brother Jimmy while their parents are out. Steven gets angry when Jimmy won’t stop crying and shakes him violently. Jimmy hits his head and dies from the trauma. This would be second degree murder under the fourth provision since Steven was over 18 and caused the death of a child under 11 through reckless conduct.

There are other homicide-related charges in New York that are important to understand:

  • Manslaughter in the First Degree (PL 125.20): Causing the death of another person with intent to cause serious physical injury or while committing a felony.
  • Aggravated Murder (PL 125.26): Intentionally causing death during certain felonies or under certain aggravating circumstances like killing a police officer.
  • Murder in the First Degree (PL 125.27): The most serious murder charge in NY, involving killing a police officer, murder for hire, terrorism, serial killings, etc.
  • Criminally Negligent Homicide (PL 125.10): Causing death by acting in a reckless or criminally negligent manner.

Possible Defenses

There are several potential defenses if charged with second degree murder:

  • Self-Defense: Arguing the killing was necessary to protect yourself from imminent deadly force by the victim. However, the self-defense must have been reasonable and proportional.
  • Extreme Emotional Disturbance: Claiming you acted under an extreme emotional disturbance with a reasonable explanation, which could negate the intent requirement.
  • Intoxication: Arguing you were so intoxicated that you were unable to form the requisite intent to kill. Voluntary intoxication is not a complete defense but can be used to show lack of intent.
  • Mistake of Fact: Making a reasonable mistake of fact, like mistakenly believing the victim was an intruder you needed to defend against when killing them.
  • Duress: Arguing you were coerced into committing the murder by the threat of immediate, serious injury or death.

Penalties if Convicted

Murder in the second degree is a class A-I felony, the highest felony class in NY. Penalties include:

  • Minimum prison sentence of 15-25 years up to life in prison. The average sentence is around 25 years to life.
  • Fines up to $5,000. The court can impose a fine up to this amount.
  • Permanent criminal record. Pleading to a lower manslaughter charge can sometimes avoid a permanent felony record.
  • Loss of certain rights. Gun ownership and voting rights may be lost if convicted of a felony. Some employment and housing opportunities may also be restricted.


New York Penal Law 125.25 is the state’s law against second degree murder. Intentionally causing someone’s death or showing a depraved indifference to human life that results in death can lead to a murder in the second degree charge. The penalties are severe, with up to life in prison possible. However, by understanding the law and possible defenses, those charged may be able to reduce or fight the charges. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential for anyone facing allegations of murder in the second degree.

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