Penalties for First Degree Murder in Arizona

first degree murder in arizona - man in handcuffs behind his back

Penalties for First Degree Murder in Arizona

The act of killing another person is a very serious crime with very serious consequences. First degree murder is the highest level of homicide, and it will be punished harshly. If you find yourself facing a charge of first degree murder in Arizona, you will need to understand your charges, the possible penalties you will face, and the best defense options for your case. Let’s take a further look at the details. 

What is first degree murder? 

Arizona law ARS 13-1105 defines first degree murder as a violation of any of the following: 

  • Intentionally and knowingly causing the death of another person, including an unborn child. This includes premeditated murders, where the defendant planned to kill another person. 
  • Intentionally and knowingly causing the death of a law enforcement officer, such as a police officer, who is in the line of duty.
  • Committing a felony, such as kidnapping or robbery, that results in a person dying, either while the crime is happening or when they are leaving the scene of the crime. 

Under ARS 13-1105, examples of first degree murder could include: 

  • A recently fired employee waits outside the office and shoots his ex-boss and kills him.  
  • A gang member shoots and kills a police officer. 
  • A kidnapping where the victim dies during the crime.

What are the potential penalties for first degree murder? 

First degree murder is one of the most serious criminal charges you can face. If you are charged with first degree murder under ARS 13-1105, you face a Class 1 felony conviction that comes with the steepest penalties. In Arizona, first degree murder carries a sentence of life imprisonment in state prison, and/or capital punishment, otherwise known as the death penalty. 

What are the defense options for first degree murder charges?

In a first degree murder case, there are three main defenses a criminal defense attorney can use. To reduce the severity of your charges, your lawyer will need to prove that the crime was not intentional, that it was committed in self-defense, that you were coerced into a false admission of guilt, or that your identity was mistaken.

No Intention or Premeditation

A defense attorney can argue the defendant did not act intentionally or premeditatively and the resulting homicide was an accident. For example, if the defendant was showing the other person their gun and it accidentally went off, the defense attorney could argue the defendant did not intentionally plan to kill the other person. 

Self Defense

When facing a charge under ARS 13-1105, a criminal defense attorney may argue the defendant was acting in their own defense, defending another person with them, or defending their property. If this is the case, the homicide charges may fall under ARS 13-404, which defines the justification for self defense. 

Mistaken Identity and/or Coercion

Coercion occurs when a law enforcement agent forces or tricks someone into admitting guilt for a crime they did not commit. A criminal defense attorney can use a coerced confession and/or a case of mistaken identity as a defense against a charge of first degree murder in Arizona. 

Felony Lawyer in Chandler

If you or a loved one is facing a charge of first degree murder in Arizona, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side to protect your rights and fight your case to the very end. The Law Offices of Todd Coolidge have been defending felony cases in the greater Phoenix area for more than 30 years. Call us or send a message today to schedule a consultation at our Phoenix or Chandler offices. 

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