Degrees of Murder

Murder blog

17 Nov Degrees of Murder

Throughout the history of society, murder has always been a punishable act. The punishment over time has changed; what was eye-for-an-eye in ancient times has evolved into our modern practice of decades in prison or possibly the death penalty. The act of murder is considered unlawful across the world. The charge of murder can be classified into different types of charges, which all have their own definitions and punishments. Coolidge Law is a criminal defense specialist to help you build a strategic defense for your felony charge in Arizona.

What is Murder?

Murder is defined across the world as the unlawful, premeditated act of taking someone’s life. With this, there are different degrees of murder based on the act itself and the circumstances surrounding it. These determine the consequences that follow.

Degrees of Murder

Degree of murder is based on whether an act is premeditated, invoked by an emotional response, or other mitigating circumstances. The different degrees of murder in Arizona include:

  • First Degree Murder: The act of taking someone’s life willfully, deliberately, and in a pre-planned-out manner is first degree murder. In Arizona, this charge is punishable by death penalty, life in prison without parole, or life in prison with parole. If parole is granted, it is only possible after serving twenty-five years if an adult was murdered, or thirty-five years if a minor fifteen years old or younger was murdered.
  • Second Degree Murder: In the act of second degree murder, the individual charged killed someone, but without planning it ahead of time. This would be, for example, someone who has a disregard for human life, and attacks someone to cause harm where the victim passes away from their wounds. Second degree murder is punishable by ten years to twenty-five years in prison.
  • Voluntary Manslaughter: This is similar to second degree murder, and in some ways is indistinct, but is less severe. The difference is the emotional state of the perpetrator. Voluntary manslaughter is the willful act of killing someone, but without planning ahead of time, and as a result of an emotional invocation, such as infidelity. The punishment for this charge is up to 12.5 years in prison.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter: This can also be called negligent homicide in Arizona and has the least severe penalty where taking a life is involved. The crime involves taking a life unintentionally, but the actions leading to death are intentional and careless of human life. An example would be drunk driving leading to an fatal accident. The penalty is up to 3.75 years in prison.


Whatever degree of murder charge you are facing, having a knowledgeable and experienced defense lawyer will benefit you. Contact Coolidge Law today to discuss your case!


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (11/13/2017) Francisca Ulloa (Flickr)