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NY Penal Law § 125.10: Criminally Negligent Homicide

Although the crime of homicide frequently involves intentionally causing the death of another individual, it can also involve bringing about the death of another person through negligence. The offense of criminally negligent homicide involves bringing about someone’s death by acting in a manner that could be considered reckless, inattentive, or careless. In addition to that, if you recklessly fail to act to assist a person and, as a result of your failure to act, someone dies, you could also be found to have committed criminally negligent homicide.  You could be prosecuted for criminally negligent homicide under New York Penal Law § 125.10 if, due to your criminal negligence, you kill another person. According to New York Penal Law § 15.05(4), acting with “criminal negligence” is another way of saying that you failed to perceive a substantial risk that your actions or inaction would lead to another person’s death. Pursuant to the statute, the risk must constitute a gross deviation from the customary standard of care that a reasonable person would observe under the circumstances.

Two Examples

  1. The defendant in this case,  Ms. Deana Olsen, was driving her SUV on a city street.  Suddenly, she lost control of the vehicle. The SUV then ran off the road and into the front yard of the victim. Sadly, with her out of control SUV, Ms. Olsen struck and killed the victim. At trial, the evidence demonstrated that Ms. Olsen was driving erratically and was using an electronic device while she was driving.  Not paying full attention to the road and her driving resulted in her losing control of her vehicle. Ms. Olsen was convicted of several offenses, including criminally negligent homicide. Her case was the People v. Olsen, 2015 NY Slip Op 574 (N.Y. App. Div., 2015)
  2. In a second example, the driver of a train was driving the train at a high rate of speed. When coming into the final station stop, he failed to sufficiently reduce the speed of the train as it approached the platform. The train, which was still going at a high speed, crashed into the wall of the station. Miraculously, the train driver survived the ordeal. Sadly, three passengers died in the horrendous collision. The driver of the train could be charged with 3 counts of criminally negligent homicide on the basis of the speed at which he was operating the train as it pulled into the station.

Offenses that are Related

Aggravated criminally negligent homicide: New York Penal Law § 125.11

Manslaughter in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 125.20

Possible Defenses

If you get charged with the crime of criminally negligent homicide, a valid defense against this charge would be to demonstrate that your actions should not be considered as a gross deviation from the way a reasonable person would behave under similar circumstances. An alternative defense would be that even though you might indeed have acted negligently, it was not your actions that brought about the death of the victim.  In other words, the death was a result of the actions of someone other than you or some other factor outside of your control.

The Sentence

Since criminally negligent homicide is a class E felony, if you are convicted, you could be sentenced to serve up to 4 years in state prison and be obligated to pay a substantial fine. The final determination on the length of your prison sentence will depend on factors such as your prior criminal record and whether or not you appear to be remorseful. For example, in the People v Olsen, the judge sentenced Ms. Olsen to the maximum of 1-4 years in prison even though she had no prior criminal record. The judge’s reason for the harsh sentence was that she failed to display remorse for her actions.

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