Degrees of Murder

Murder blog - stuffed teddy on the ground with some stuffing pulled out

Degrees of Murder

In Western society murder has always been a punishable act. The punishments have changed over time; what used to be an eye-for-an-eye in ancient times has evolved into our modern practice of imprisonment, or even a possible death penalty charge. As a criminal defense specialist in Arizona, Coolidge Law is a seasoned law firm in dealing with legal and criminal processes. Regardless of your felony charge, we’re ready to help you build a strategic defense.

What is Murder?

Murder is defined across the world as the unlawful, premeditated act of taking someone’s life. There are differing degrees of murder, based on the act itself and the circumstances surrounding it. These degrees determine the consequences for the crime of murder.

Degrees of Murder

A murder charge will include one of several classifications, each class having its own definitions and sentences. The degree of a murder is based on whether an act is premeditated, invoked by an emotional response, or on 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 manner is first degree murder. In Arizona, this charge is punishable by either the death penalty, life in prison without parole, or life in prison with parole. If parole is granted, it is only allowed after serving twenty-five years (for murder of an adult), or thirty-five years (for murder of a minor fifteen years old or younger).
  • Second Degree Murder: Second degree murder is the act of killing someone, but without planning or premeditation. 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 of their attack passes away. Second degree murder is punishable by serving anywhere from ten years to twenty-five years in prison.
  • Voluntary Manslaughter: Similar to second degree murder and in some ways indistinct to it, voluntary manslaughter is a less severe charge. The difference between the two charges relates to the emotional state of the perpetrator. Voluntary manslaughter is the willful act of killing someone without premeditation, but 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. Involuntary manslaughter has the least severe penalty for the taking of another person’s life. The crime involves taking a life unintentionally, when the actions that led to death are intentional and careless in terms of human life. An example would be if driving drunk leads to an fatal accident. The penalty is up to 3.75 years in prison.


If you’re facing a murder or manslaughter charge, having a knowledgeable and experienced defense lawyer is your best defense. Contact Coolidge Law today to discuss your case. We’re thorough, we’re tough, and we care.


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