What Are the Different Types of Homicide in Arizona?

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What Are the Different Types of Homicide in Arizona?

Murder is the most serious offense you can commit in Arizona. Because homicide charges are such grievous offenses, they carry the highest penalties. If found guilty of an Arizona homicide, you may even face the death penalty under certain circumstances. 

In the state of Arizona, there are four different types of homicide—first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of homicide in Arizona, the laws governing each, and what penalties a defendant might face. 

Types of Homicide in Arizona  

1: First-Degree Murder

First-degree murder is the highest level of homicide in Arizona. Statute ARS 13-1105 defines first-degree murder as causing the death of another person in a way that was intentional and planned beforehand. For example, a woman finds out her husband is having an affair. She finds out they will be going to a restaurant that evening. She waits outside the restaurant for them to arrive—when she sees them, she pulls out a gun, shooting and killing them both.

Arizona law says a defendant can commit first-degree murder in one of three ways: 

  • Killing someone through an intentional and premeditated way.
  • Intentionally taking the life of a law enforcement officer while they are in the line of duty.
  • Committing another specific felony and causing the death of someone while performing the felony or trying to escape. For example, a drive-by shooting felony crime might result in a first-degree murder charge. 

As first-degree murder is the worst crime an Arizona resident can commit, it comes with the harshest penalties. A guilty verdict of first-degree murder is a Class 1 felony carrying a life sentence in state prison without the possibility of parole. Additionally, first-degree murder charges are punishable by capital punishment, also known as the death penalty.

2: Second-Degree Murder

Arizona statute ARS 13-1104 explains second-degree murder, which is the second-worst type of homicide. A person commits second-degree murder through an act they know will kill another person. This could be an intentional act or doing something extremely reckless without any regard for how it may harm others around you. However, unlike first-degree, second-degree murder offenses do not involve premeditation.

Consider our example from first-degree murder. If that same woman instead just happens to see her husband and his mistress walking down the street, then pulls out a gun and kills them, her actions are no longer premeditated. For that reason, a prosecutor would charge her with second-degree murder. 

Second-degree murder is also a Class 1 felony in the state of Arizona. If found guilty, penalties include between 10 to 25 years in prison

3: Manslaughter

Under Arizona statute ARS 13-1103, there are five different types of manslaughter:  

  • Performing a reckless act that kills someone. For example, showing off a gun to a friend and “shooting” them without realizing it had bullets in it. 
  • Killing someone during a fight or “in the heat of passion.”
  • Knowingly helping someone commit suicide.
  • Causing someone’s death because you felt threatened and forced to commit a deadly action. 
  • Causing the death of an unborn child by physically hurting the mother. 

Manslaughter is a Class 2 felony in Arizona with a potential penalty of up to 10 years in state prison. 

4: Negligent Homicide

Arizona ARS 13-1102 defines negligent homicide as the act of causing someone’s death through a criminally negligent act. Examples of negligent homicide include accidentally killing someone during a hunting trip, negligently causing a fire that kills someone, or leaving a child unattended in a locked car without the windows open. 

Negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony in the state of Arizona. If found guilty, penalties include up to three years in state prison and fines of up to $150,000.

Arizona Homicide Defense Attorney in Phoenix

Homicide is an extremely serious offense no matter what state you are in. In Arizona, homicides carry severe penalties, including possible capital punishment. If you or a loved one finds themselves facing felony homicide charges in Arizona, it is vital that you have an aggressive and knowledgeable criminal law specialist at your side to defend your case to the fullest.  

Todd Coolidge has over 25 years of experience as a certified criminal law specialist in Maricopa County. Give us a call or send us a message today to schedule a consultation in Phoenix or Chandler. 

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