The New York Criminal Law Blog

What Is First Degree Murder in New York?

Murder is the intentional killing of another. But it's not always so simple. The thing with murder and manslaughter is that there are multiple degrees and different types of killing.

The basic definition of murder is the unlawful killing of another with what lawyers call "malice aforethought." That term refers to the level of intent, which requires some degree of premeditation. By that, it doesn't necessarily mean that the murder was planned out. It just means that the murder was deliberate, or the product of a certain degree of recklessness.

At the highest level, a first degree murder charge is as bad as it gets. It's typically a murder with the highest level of intent and possibly other unfavorable circumstances.

Here's a look at first degree murder in New York:

Murders in which the victim's identity is a factor. Under New York law, the charge of first degree murder focuses largely on the victim in many cases. Victims who may give rise to a first degree murder charge include:

  • Police officers or peace officers in the line of duty
  • Prison officers in the line of duty
  • Witnesses to crimes who were going to testify on those crimes
  • Judges

Mercenaries. Killing another and getting compensation for the murder gives rise to a first degree murder charge.

"Felony murders." If someone kills another during the course of committing a felony or attempting to commit a felony, he or she will be charged with first degree murder in New York.

Recidivist murderers. If someone has been convicted of first degree murder previously, then the present killing is also said to be first degree murder.

Cruel circumstances. If the defendant acted in a particularly cruel way or inflicted torture on the victim, thus causing death, the death results in a first degree murder.

These are only some of the events or circumstances that give rise to a first degree murder charge in New York. For more information, talk to a New York criminal defense lawyer or have a look at our related resource sections below.

Related Resources: