Murder vs. Manslaughter: The Differences Under Arizona Law

silhouette of person with gun and others with hands up - murder and manslaughter difference

Murder vs. Manslaughter: The Differences Under Arizona Law

Murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide…while all of these crimes involve the death of another individual, the penalties for them are all very different. This quick guide explains the differences between these crimes and the sentences they carry in Arizona. 

What Are the Differences Between Murder and Manslaughter?

There is often discussion about the differences between murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide under Arizona law. In short, the main difference is in the intent. If the death of the victim was planned, the charges will be different than if it was accidental. Here’s how the different charges compare.


The difference between first and second degree murder has to do with premeditation. The act of planning a crime out beforehand. Our post on second degree murder can help you understand different types of defenses.

Murder in the First Degree

  • This type of murder is premeditated—you know or intend that your actions will cause the death of another individual(s), including on-duty law enforcement officers and unborn children. 
  • A death that occurs while you commit certain crimes, regardless of whether or not you intended to kill. These crimes can include sexual assault, terrorism, certain drug offenses, drive-by shootings, kidnappings, or robberies. 

Murder in the Second Degree

  • Intentionally or knowingly cause the death of another individual(s), including on-duty law enforcement officers, and unborn children without planning it ahead of time. 
  • Knowingly engaging in an action that will cause death or serious injury to another individual.


  • Reckless actions cause the death of another individual(s), including an unborn child by harming the mother. This can include car accidents where you were speeding and crash.
  • You provide another person with the things needed for them to commit suicide.

Negligent Homicide

  • Through negligence or lack of care, you cause the death of another individual(s), including an unborn child. This can look like forgetting to check your backseat for your infant.

Punishments for Murder and Manslaughter in Arizona   

Penalties for Murder 

  • Class 1 felony
  • The imprisonment term is determined by the judge and/or the jury
  • Lifetime prison sentences are possible, and can include life in prison, natural life in prison, or the death penalty
  • Ineligible for programs like work release or parole

Penalties for Manslaughter

  • Class 2 felony
  • Imprisonment term of 5 to 12 years
  • Possibility of parole

Penalties for Negligent Homicide

  • Class 4 felony
  • Imprisonment term of 1 to 4 years
  • Possibility of parole or probation

Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Regardless of who, what, when, where, or why—if you are being charged with murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide, you need a certified criminal defense attorney. Being convicted of any of these crimes could land you in prison with a felony on your record. 

Having a defense lawyer with a successful track record is a must. You need someone who understands the ins and outs of the Arizona justice system, its felony charges, and the court process. A  lawyer who cares about your case and treats you with respect is another important factor. 

If you have been charged with causing the death of another human being, give us a call to schedule a consultation on your case. Todd Coolidge could be the difference between spending time in prison or walking free.




Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (7/31/23). Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash.