How Syracuse Courts Define Murder

New York Penal Law §125.00 provides the core definition of homicide. This statute states that a homicide is any incident that leads to the death of another person or an unborn child older than 24 weeks. However, despite this definition, the courts cannot charge you with the generic crime of “homicide”. Instead, New York Penal Law recognizes three levels of homicide that a prosecutor may use to pursue a conviction.

The most serious allegations of homicide are known as murder, defined officially by NYPL §125.25. At the core, a murder is any death that is caused by the deliberate actions of another. Even within the umbrella of murder, there are three classes of this offense, each with their own elements. However, a murder conviction is always a class A-1 felony that carries a mandatory minimum prison term of fifteen to twenty-five years, and a maximum of life.


Many deaths in the criminal justice system are not charged as murder. Instead, when a death is the result of reckless behavior, the court may charge this incident as manslaughter. Recklessness, according to NYPL §15.05, is when a person is aware of and chooses to ignore the risk created by their behavior.

Under NYPL §§125.15 and 125.20, manslaughter is separated into two classes, and courts in Syracuse consider a person causing a death after intentionally inflicting serious physical injury to another to be the more serious of the two. As such, Manslaughter in the Second Degree may be charged when an assault results in a death. Alternatively, Manslaughter in the First Degree applies when a death results from a defendant under extreme emotional distress. A conviction here is a class B felony.

Death Resulting from Criminal Negligence

However, even when a person does not intend to harm another person, they may face homicide charges. This is because NYPL §125.10 creates the class E felony crime of negligent homicide.

According to NYPL §15.05, criminal negligence applies when a person does not realize that their actions are placing another at risk of harm. Furthermore, they do not act as a reasonable person would to prevent harm.

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Despite the severe nature of such charges, not every homicide is a murder. However, even charges of manslaughter or negligent criminal homicide are felonies for which a conviction could result in significant prison time. In light of this, it is often essential to face these charges with a solid defensive plan and battle-hardened legal representation.

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