New York Penal Law § 125.27: Murder in the first degree

If you intentionally cause the death of another person, you will face a homicide charge. There are several different offenses in the New York criminal code related to taking the life of another person including homicide, manslaughter and murder. Of all of the crimes related to homicide the most serious are murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and aggravated murder. Each is a class A-I felony, meaning that if you are convicted you could be sentenced to life in prison. Under New York Penal Law § 125.27 you could be prosecuted for murder in the first degree if you:

  1. Intentionally caused the death of another person and the victim was a police officer engaged in performing his or her official duties,
  2. Intentionally caused the death of another person and the victim was a firefighter, emergency medical technician, ambulance driver, paramedic, physician or registered nurse responding to an emergency,
  3. Intentionally caused the death of another person and the victim was an employee of a state correctional facility performing his or her official duties,
  4. Intentionally caused the death of a witness to a prior crime in order to prevent the witness from testifying or because the witness already testified,
  5. Intentionally caused the death of another person for profit,
  6. Caused the death of another person in furtherance of the commission of another serious felony such as kidnapping in the first degree, arson in the first degree or rape in the first degree,
  7. Caused the death of another person and you had previously been convicted of murder in the second degree, or
  8. Caused the death of another person under the conditions that showed that you had a depraved indifference for human life.
Example

Dan and Donald kidnap wealth socialite Sylvia and demand $500,000 ransom. In order to prevent her from escaping Dan hits Sylvia on the head with a gun. Sylvia dies from her wound. Both Dan and Donald could be prosecuted for murder in the first degree as both committed kidnapping in the first degree and Sylvia was killed during the kidnapping.

Related Offenses
  1. Aggravated murder: New York Penal Law § 125.26
  2. Murder in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 125.25
Defenses

Self-defense is an important defense to a charge of murder in the first degree. This defense is also referred to as justification. If you can show that the killing was the result of a reasonable use of force to defend against a reasonable fear of death, then you may have a defense to a murder in the first degree charge. Also, if the killing was not intentional but accidental, you may have a defense. However, under some circumstances such as if the death occurs during the commission of a felony such as kidnapping in the first degree, that the killing was accidental may not be a defense.

Sentence

Like aggravated murder and murder in the second degree, murder in the first degree is one of the few crimes in New York that is a class A-I felony. If you are convicted you could spend the rest of your life in prison. The minimum sentence would be 15-40 years.

New York Penal Law § 125.27: Murder in the first degree

A person is guilty of murder in the first degree when:

  1. With intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person; and
    1. Either:
      1. the intended victim was a police officer as defined in subdivision 34 of § 1.20 of the criminal procedure law who was at the time of the killing engaged in the course of performing his official duties, and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the intended victim was a police officer; or

      2. the intended victim was a peace officer as defined in paragraph a of subdivision twenty-one, subdivision twenty-three, twenty-four or sixty-two (employees of the division for youth) of § 2.10 of the criminal procedure law who was at the time of the killing engaged in the course of performing his official duties, and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the intended victim was such a uniformed court officer, parole officer, probation officer, or employee of the division for youth; or (ii-a) the intended victim was a firefighter, emergency medical technician, ambulance driver, paramedic, physician or registered nurse involved in a first response team, or any other individual who, in the course of official duties, performs emergency response activities and was engaged in such activities at the time of killing and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the intended victim was such firefighter, emergency medical technician, ambulance driver, paramedic, physician or registered nurse; or

      3. the intended victim was an employee of a state correctional institution or was an employee of a local correctional facility as defined in subdivision two of section forty of the correction law, who was at the time of the killing engaged in the course of performing his official duties, and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the intended victim was an employee of a state correctional institution or a local correctional facility; or

      4. at the time of the commission of the killing, the defendant was confined in a state correctional institution or was otherwise in custody upon a sentence for the term of his natural life, or upon a sentence commuted to one of natural life, or upon a sentence for an indeterminate term the minimum of which was at least fifteen years and the maximum of which was natural life, or at the time of the commission of the killing, the defendant had escaped from such confinement or custody while serving such a sentence and had not yet been returned to such confinement or custody; or

      5. the intended victim was a witness to a crime committed on a prior occasion and the death was caused for the purpose of preventing the intended victim's testimony in any criminal action or proceeding whether or not such action or proceeding had been commenced, or the intended victim had previously testified in a criminal action or proceeding and the killing was committed for the purpose of exacting retribution for such prior testimony, or the intended victim was an immediate family member of a witness to a crime committed on a prior occasion and the killing was committed for the purpose of preventing or influencing the testimony of such witness, or the intended victim was an immediate family member of a witness who had previously testified in a criminal action or proceeding and the killing was committed for the purpose of exacting retribution upon such witness for such prior testimony. As used in this subparagraph "immediate family member" means a husband, wife, father, mother, daughter, son, brother, sister, stepparent, grandparent, stepchild or grandchild; or

      6. the defendant committed the killing or procured commission of the killing pursuant to an agreement with a person other than the intended victim to commit the same for the receipt, or in expectation of the receipt, of anything of pecuniary value from a party to the agreement or from a person other than the intended victim acting at the direction of a party to such agreement; or

      7. the victim was killed while the defendant was in the course of committing or attempting to commit and in furtherance of robbery, burglary in the first degree or second degree, kidnapping in the first degree, arson in the first degree or second degree, rape in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first degree, sexual abuse in the first degree, aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree or escape in the first degree, or in the course of and furtherance of immediate flight after committing or attempting to commit any such crime or in the course of and furtherance of immediate flight after attempting to commit the crime of murder in the second degree; provided however, the victim is not a participant in one of the aforementioned crimes and, provided further that, unless the defendant's criminal liability under this subparagraph is based upon the defendant having commanded another person to cause the death of the victim or intended victim pursuant to § 20.00 of this chapter, this subparagraph shall not apply where the defendant's criminal liability is based upon the conduct of another pursuant to § 20.00 of this chapter; or

      8. as part of the same criminal transaction, the defendant, with intent to cause serious physical injury to or the death of an additional person or persons, causes the death of an additional person or persons; provided, however, the victim is not a participant in the criminal transaction; or

      9. prior to committing the killing, the defendant had been convicted of murder as defined in this section or § 125.25 of this article, or had been convicted in another jurisdiction of an offense which, if committed in this state, would constitute a violation of either of such sections; or

      10. prior to committing the killing, the defendant had been convicted of murder as defined in this section or § 125.25 of this article, or had been convicted in another jurisdiction of an offense which, if committed in this state, would constitute a violation of either of such sections; or

      11. the defendant intentionally caused the death of two or more additional persons within the state in separate criminal transactions within a period of twenty-four months when committed in a similar fashion or pursuant to a common scheme or plan; or

      12. the intended victim was a judge as defined in subdivision twenty-three of § 1.20 of the criminal procedure law and the defendant killed such victim because such victim was, at the time of the killing, a judge; or

      13. the victim was killed in furtherance of an act of terrorism, as defined in paragraph (b) of subdivision one of § 490.05 of this chapter; and

    2. The defendant was more than eighteen years old at the time of the commission of the crime.

  2. In any prosecution under subdivision one, it is an affirmative defense that:
    1. The defendant acted under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation or excuse, the reasonableness of which is to be determined from the viewpoint of a person in the defendant's situation under the circumstances as the defendant believed them to be. Nothing contained in this paragraph shall constitute a defense to a prosecution for, or preclude a conviction of, manslaughter in the first degree or any other crime except murder in the second degree; or

    2. The defendant's conduct consisted of causing or aiding, without the use of duress or deception, another person to commit suicide. Nothing contained in this paragraph shall constitute a defense to a prosecution for, or preclude a conviction of, manslaughter in the second degree or any other crime except murder in the second degree.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Because murder in the first degree is one of the most serious crimes in the New York criminal code, as soon as you know that you are a suspect it is critical that you contact an experienced attorney. If you are convicted of murder in the first degree without doubt at a minimum you will spend many years in prison and perhaps the rest of your life. However, just because you were charged with this crime does not mean that you will be convicted. There may be defenses that may result in the charges against you being dropped or reduced. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter, conspiracy, murder and other serious crimes. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of crimes in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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