1st Degree Murder, 2nd Degree Murder, Manslaughter & Homicide Charges

Homicide and murder offenses are among the most serious felony crimes in Arizona. Anyone charged with a homicide or murder offense should retain an experienced defense attorney as soon after they have been charged as possible or before being charged when someone learns that they are a person of interest.

There are multiple homicides and murder offenses that can be charged. The particular crime with which you might be charged will depend on the facts of what happened and how the victim died. Regardless of what happened, you should not agree to go to the police station to be interviewed or submit to a custodial interrogation after your arrest.

Instead, you should assert your right to remain silent and request an attorney to represent you. The police cannot continue questioning you once you invoke your rights. You should then contact Gurion Legal for help with your case.

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Arizona Homicide Offenses

All Arizona homicide offenses are felony crimes. Homicide offenses include negligent homicide, manslaughter, second-degree murder, and first-degree murder.

The main difference between whether you might be charged with negligent homicide, second-degree murder, or first-degree murder is your intent at the time of the offense.

If the prosecutor thinks that you negligently killed the victim, they might charge you with negligent homicide. If they believe that you killed the victim with premeditation or intent, they will likely charge you with murder.

Finally, if the prosecutor thinks that you killed the victim recklessly in disregard that the victim would likely die, they might charge you with manslaughter. A premeditated killing involves both the intent to kill combined with some advanced plan to commit murder.

 

First-Degree Murder

Under ARS 13-1105, the prosecutor can charge you with first-degree murder when you intentionally killed another person with premeditation. If you intentionally killed a person who was pregnant, you can face two counts of first-degree murder for the pregnant woman and her unborn fetus.

Arizona also has a felony murder rule under ARS 13-1105(A)(2). Under this subsection, you can face first-degree murder charges if you perpetrated one of the following felonies that resulted in the victim’s death:

  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Child molestation
  • Child abuse
  • Escape
  • Fleeing or eluding a police officer
  • Selling, trafficking, transporting or importing narcotics or dangerous drugs
  • Drive-by shooting
  • Transporting, trafficking, or selling marijuana
  • Terrorism
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual conduct with a minor
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery

Even if you did not intend to kill the victim, you could be charged with first-degree felony murder if he or she died while you were committing one of these listed offenses.

 

Second-Degree Murder Charges

Under ARS 13-1104, the prosecutor can charge you with second-degree murder in one of the following circumstances:

  • Without premeditation, you intentionally killed the victim or unborn fetus.
  • Knowing that your conduct would likely result in the victim’s death, you knowingly caused the victim’s or unborn fetus’s death.
  • You acted with extreme indifference to the risk of death when you recklessly caused the victim or unborn fetus to die.

 

Manslaughter / Vehicular Manslaughter

In Arizona, manslaughter is codified at ARS 13-1103. Under this statute, the prosecutor can charge you with manslaughter under any of the following circumstances:

  • You caused the victim’s death in reckless disregard to the risk that he or she would die (reckless manslaughter).
  • You intentionally killed the victim in the heat of passion after a third party or the victim adequately provoked you (heat of passion manslaughter).
  • You used unjustified force or were coerced or forced into killing the victim (unjustified self-defense, coerced, or forced manslaughter).
  • You provided the means to someone you knew intended to commit suicide (assisted suicide manslaughter).
  • You recklessly or knowingly caused a fetus’s death when you injured a pregnant woman (unborn child manslaughter).
  • You drove while impaired by drugs or alcohol and caused a fatal accident (vehicular manslaughter).

 

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Under ARS 13-1102, you can be charged with negligent homicide if you negligently killed someone without understanding the risk of death from your actions.

Before the prosecutor can charge you with this offense, your conduct must have grossly deviated from how a reasonable person would have conducted themself in the same circumstances.

Penalties for Homicide or Murder Offenses

All homicide offenses carry severe penalties that depend on the specific type of crime for which you might be convicted. The most serious homicide offense in Arizona is first-degree murder, which is a Class 1 felony.

If you are convicted of a first-degree murder offense, the following penalties will apply:

  • Life imprisonment or capital punishment
  • Fine of up to a maximum of $150,000 plus surcharges

If the prosecutor decides to pursue capital punishment, he or she will file a notice with the court. After a finding of guilt, the jury will determine whether or not the prosecutor has presented sufficient evidence to prove an aggravating factor.

If capital punishment is not imposed, you will face a sentence of life in prison. A conviction of second-degree murder is also a Class 1 felony.


If you are convicted of second-degree murder, the penalties will vary, depending on the victim’s age as follows:

  • Child victim under age 12 – Life imprisonment without parole until at least 35 years have passed or from 13 years up to a maximum of 27 years in prison
  • Child victim ages 12 to 14 – Life imprisonment or 13 to 27 years
  • Victim 15+ – Minimum of 10 up to a maximum of 25 years in prison
  • Felony fine of a maximum of $150,000 plus surcharges

A manslaughter conviction is a Class 2 felony carrying the following potential penalties:

  • Prison for three to twelve-and-one-half years
  • Felony fine of up to a maximum of $150,000 plus surcharges

A conviction for criminally negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony with the following potential penalties:

  • Prison from one to three-and-three-quarter years
  • Fine of up to a maximum of $150,000 plus surcharges

If you have prior allegeable felonies on your criminal record, the potential sentence you might face for any homicide offense other than first-degree murder will substantially increase.

Having any type of homicide conviction on your record can cause severe stigma and other collateral consequences, including difficulty finding employment, finding a place to live, or obtaining credit after you are released from prison.

If you are released from prison on parole, a parole violation can also send you back to serve the remainder of your sentence.

If you are being investigated for a homicide offense or have been arrested, you should retain an experienced Phoenix homicide defense lawyer who has past experience handling homicide and murder cases.

6 Effective Defenses to Homicide Offenses

Homicide cases are frequently very complex and require significant investigation to uncover evidence and find witnesses. Your Phoenix homicide attorney will likely work together with several different experts to help challenge the various types of evidence the police and prosecutors have gathered against you.

The defenses that might be available to you will depend on the specific circumstances and facts of your case. Some of the common defenses raised in murder or homicide cases are detailed below.

1. Lack of Premeditation

If you are facing first-degree murder charges, your attorney might challenge the evidence the prosecutor has that your actions were premeditated.

While this might not keep you from facing a prison sentence, it might result in a conviction for a lesser offense such as manslaughter or second-degree murder.

2. Self-Defense/Defense of Others

If you acted in self-defense or in defense of someone else, you could raise an affirmative defense. To succeed with one of these defenses, you will have to present evidence showing that the alleged victim threatened you with deadly force, and you used justified force to protect yourself or the third party.

3. Misidentification

Many homicide cases involve eyewitness identifications. Misidentifications have resulted in many people being released from prison after DNA testing showed they were innocent of murder. If the police used a lineup procedure to charge you, your defense lawyer would carefully analyze how the police constructed and conducted the lineup process.

If law enforcement used flawed procedures, your attorney could challenge the identification procedure by filing a motion in court. If the motion succeeds, the prosecutor might dismiss the charges against you.

4. You Have an Alibi

If you did not commit the offense and were somewhere else at the time it happened, you could raise an alibi defense. However, this is an affirmative defense that will require you to present evidence showing that you were somewhere else when the homicide occurred.

Certain types of evidence that you might present include things like bus or plane tickets, gas receipts, surveillance video, hotel receipts, and credible witnesses. However, an alibi defense will not be available if you are accused of hiring an assassin to kill the victim for you.

5. Forensic Evidence is Unreliable

Forensic evidence is sometimes unreliable. Your attorney will work with an expert to examine and test any forensic evidence to look for problems. Some of the types of evidence that might be potentially unreliable include DNA, fingerprints, shoeprint evidence, blood spatter analysis, and others.

6. Police Violated Your Constitutional Rights

Police officers must adhere to the U.S. Constitution when they conduct searches, stops, and seizures and when they interrogate suspects. If a detective conducted a warrantless search of your home or property when an exception to the warrant requirement didn’t exist, any evidence that was subsequently collected as a result of the unlawful search and seizure might be suppressed upon a motion by your defense lawyer.

If the police interrogated you without reading your Miranda rights, or used coercive or intimidating tactics, your lawyer might also file a motion to suppress any incriminating statements you made and any evidence the police gathered as a result.

Immediately Speak with a Violent Crimes Attorney for Murder or Manslaughter Charges at Gurion Legal

Homicide charges are very serious and require aggressive defenses. If you have learned that the police are investigating you for murder, or you have already been arrested, you should act quickly.

Your violent crimes attorney at Gurion Legal can investigate your case and work with experts to build the best possible defense case for you. Do not agree to talk to the police and call us today to request a consultation at (480) 800-0020.

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