Committing Homicide in Arizona

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Committing Homicide in Arizona

Subjects like these are never fun to discuss, but understanding how the law approaches and defines acts like homicide is essential when interacting with our court systems. Todd Coolidge, a Certified Criminal Law Specialist, has handled scores of challenging cases throughout Maricopa County and the rest of Arizona. And that includes homicide cases. When you hire him as your criminal defense attorney, you can do so knowing his experience and record speak for themselves.

What is Homicide?

Legally defined, homicide is the killing of any human being by another human being. However, contrary to popular belief, not all homicide is considered murder. In certain cases, homicide is lawful. The difference between the two types of homicide lies in the intent. For example, if a police officer shoots and kills an armed suspect, it’s considered homicide—but not murder. Similarly, if a person kills another human being in self-defense, it would not be considered murder. On the other hand, murder and manslaughter fall under the category of unlawful killing.

What is the Legal Definition of Murder?

According to 18 U.S. Code § 1111, Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought” This definition then begs the question: What is malice aforethought? To answer that, let’s examine each word separately. Malice refers to a person’s intent to injure or kill another person. Aforethought, as you might imagine, refers to a crime being premeditated or planned in advance. When combined and applied to the definition of homicide, the meaning of these two words indicates a premeditated intention to kill another person.

Having said that, allow us to add a clarification: in many states, malice aforethought is not limited to premeditated or intentional killings. It can also exist if the killer:

  • Exhibits in their behavior a reckless disregard for human life that leads to the victim’s death; or,
  • Intentionally inflicts serious bodily harm, resulting in the victim’s death.

The Degrees of Murder

We won’t go into too much detail on this subject, since we’ve covered it in a previous post. But the intent and circumstances of a murder play a role in how the murder is classified, and therefore punished, in Arizona. There are two degrees of murder:

  1. First Degree Murder: The act of taking someone’s life willfully, deliberately, and in a pre-planned manner.
  2. Second Degree Murder: The intentional killing of a person without premeditation or planning. An example of second-degree murder would be if someone who has a disregard for human life attacks another person to cause them harm, and as a result of their wounds, the victim passes away.


After reading this post you might be asking yourself, But what about manslaughter? Isn’t that murder? The short answer is, manslaughter is defined differently than murder, and we’ll cover that in our next post. If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, Todd Coolidge is a trusted, Certified Criminal Law Specialist with extensive knowledge of Arizona law. Call us today to set up your consultation.


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (7/14/2018) Photo by Robert Couse-Baker on flickr