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HOMICIDE – is when a person takes the life of another. It does not have to be unlawful. For example if you kill someone when you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent them from killing you. This is the exception. Most forms of homicide involve the unlawful taking of a human life. In New Jersey, the unlawful taking of another person’s life is classified as “Murder”, “Manslaughter” or, when it involves a vehicle or vessel, “Death by Auto or Vessel”.

MURDER – when the actor purposely or knowingly causes the death or serious bodily injury resulting in death. It also includes when one commits one of an identified group of crimes and in the course of the crime, or immediate flight therefrom, any person causes the death of a person other than one of the participants.

Murder is a crime of the first degree but has its own penalty provisions. The law requires that a specific term of between thirty (30) years and life imprisonment be imposed. The person will be obligated to serve a minimum of thirty (30) years before becoming eligible for release on parole. It can be considerably longer. Please see the section on the no early release law for further explanation.

There are also circumstances where the penalty shall be life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.


  1. recklessly causes death under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life; or,
  2. Causes the death of another person while fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.

A violation of section 1 calls for a term of imprisonment between 10 and 30 years. A violation of section 2 calls for a maximum penalty of 20 years.

MANSLAUGHTER – when someone

  1. Recklessly causes death;
  2. Purposely or knowingly causing death in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation.

Manslaughter is a crime of the second degree with a maximum 10 year term of imprisonment.

DEATH BY AUTO OR VESSEL – constitutes criminal homicide when it is caused by driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly. Recklessness can be proven in a variety of ways. What a layman would consider reckless would likely be enough. Traveling at 100 miles per hour, racing on the highway weaving in and out of traffic would be a few examples of what might be sufficient. The law does, however, have certain acts which create an inference of recklessness in and of themselves.

Falling asleep while driving or driving or was driving after having been without sleep for a period in excess of 24 hours may give rise to an inference of recklessness.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs shall give rise to an inference of recklessness.

Utilizing a hand held wireless telephone without a hands free device may give rise to an inference of recklessness.

A violation of this statute has a myriad of possible penalties depending upon the underlying facts and circumstances.

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