When an individual is charged with murder in the second degree in New York, it does not mean that he or she committed the crime. An attorney may come up with several defenses against the charge at trial or in the hopes of having the charge dismissed prior to a trial. A common defense is to argue that the defendant did not commit the crime that he or she is accused of taking part in.
Another defense may be to argue that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the murder. While voluntary intoxication is generally not an excuse for committing a crime, involuntary intoxication may be. In some cases, it may be possible to claim that the defendant is not guilty due to insanity.
The law does provide leeway for those who claim that they killed another person in an act of self-defense. To qualify as self-defense, the defendant could not have been the aggressor and was in a place that he or she had permission to be in. Furthermore, the person who committed the act had to have first retreated or otherwise tried to remove him or herself from the situation before resorting to a physical counterattack.
Those who are charged with murder may wish to talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Legal counsel may be able to create a defense strategy that may result in it being dropped. In some cases, it may be possible to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor, which may allow a defendant to avoid some or all of the penalties in exchange for a plea of guilty to a lesser offense.