Manslaughter vs Homicide vs Murder
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Manslaughter vs Homicide Charges in Arizona
In Arizona, homicides are among the most severe types of felony offenses that are charged. If you have been accused of a homicide offense, it is critical for you to get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. There are several different homicide offenses in Arizona with additional penalties.
The particular offense you might be charged with will depend on the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death. No matter what happened, do not talk to the police officers who are investigating you or who arrest you. If you are asked to come down to the police station for questioning or are placed under arrest for a murder offense, invoke your right to remain silent and ask for an attorney. If you have been brought in for questioning, arrested, or charged, call your defense lawyer at the law firm of Colburn Hintze Maletta to schedule a consultation and learn about your rights.
Types of Homicide Offenses in Arizona
Homicide offenses in Arizona are all felonies. There are different classes of homicide offenses, including first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. The primary difference between a first- or second-degree murder charge and negligent homicide is intent.
If the prosecutor believes that you intentionally killed someone with intent or premeditation, you will likely be charged with murder. If the prosecutor instead considers that you did not intend to kill the victim but acted with negligence, you might be charged with negligent homicide.
Manslaughter is charged when you did not intend to kill someone but acted with recklessness as to the likelihood that the victim’s death might result. Premeditation includes both an intent to kill but also some degree of planning to commit the offense.
The different felony classes of homicide offenses are detailed below.
First-degree murder is the most serious homicide offense and is found in ARS 13-1105. Under this statute, you can be charged with first-degree murder if you intentionally kill someone with premeditation. You can be charged with two counts of first-degree murder when you intentionally kill a pregnant woman for both the loss of her life and that of her unborn child.
The first-degree murder statute also includes Arizona’s felony murder rule.
Under ARS 13-1105(A)(2), you can be charged with first-degree murder, even when you did not intend to kill the victim, if you engaged in a listed felony offense that resulted in his or her death. The enumerated offenses include the following:
- Sexual conduct with a minor
- Sexual assault
- Child molestation
- Marijuana sales, importation, or trafficking
- Importation, transportation, sales, or trafficking of dangerous drugs
- Importation, transportation, sales, or trafficking of narcotics
- Drive-by shooting
- Escape from prison or jail
- Child abuse
- Fleeing and eluding an officer
If someone is killed while you commit any of these offenses, you could face first-degree felony murder charges even though you did not intend to kill that person.
Second-Degree Murder Charges
Second-degree murder is found in ARS 13-1104. Under this statute, you can be charged with second-degree murder under one of the following circumstances:
- You intentionally killed a person or unborn child without premeditation.
- You knowingly caused the death of a person or unborn child while knowing that your actions would likely result in death.
- You recklessly caused the death of another person or unborn child with extreme indifference as to the risk of death.
Manslaughter Charges (Including Vehicular Manslaughter)
Under ARS 13-1103, you can be charged with manslaughter if one of several different circumstances exists. Manslaughter can be charged in the following ways:
- Reckless manslaughter – You caused someone’s death with reckless disregard to the risk of death
- The “heat of passion” manslaughter – You killed someone with intent while acting in the heat of passion after adequate provocation by the victim or a third party.
- Forced or coerced manslaughter – You killed someone when you were forced or coerced to do so by someone else or with unjustified force in response to an immediate threat of force.
- Assisted suicide manslaughter – While knowing someone intended to kill themselves, you provided the means for him or her to do so.
- Unborn child manslaughter – You knowingly or recklessly caused the death of an unborn child by injuring a pregnant woman.
You can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter under this statute if you get behind the wheel while you are impaired by alcohol or drugs and cause an accident that kills one or more people.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Criminally negligent homicide is found in ARS 13-1102. Under this statute, the prosecutor may charge you with criminally negligent homicide if you did not recognize the substantial risk of death posed by your actions.
To be charged with this offense, your actions must have grossly deviated from the way in which a reasonable person would have acted in the same situation. You can be charged with this offense when a victim is a person or an unborn child.
Penalties for Homicide Offenses
The penalties for homicide offenses are very severe, but they depend on the particular type of offense a defendant might be convicted of committing. First-degree murder is the most serious homicide offense. If you are convicted of first-degree murder, you will face the following penalties:
- Class 1 felony
- Life in prison without the possibility of parole
- Capital punishment
- Fine of $150,000
If the jury determines that an aggravating factor has been proven, the court will then determine whether or not the death penalty should be imposed.
If the prosecutor has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, the court will determine whether one or more aggravating factors were present. If the jury determines that an aggravating factor has been proven, the court will then determine whether or not the death penalty should be imposed. If not, the defendant will receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole and spend the rest of his or her life in prison. If you are convicted of second-degree murder, you will face the following penalties:
- Class 1 felony
- For a victim younger than age 12, life in prison with no possibility of parole until 35 years have been served or, if a life sentence is not imposed, from 13 to 27 years in prison
- For a victim ages 12, 13, or 14, life in prison or from 13 to 27 years in prison
- For victims older than age 15, from 10 to 25 years in prison
- Fine of $150,000
If you are convicted of manslaughter, you will face the following penalties:
- Class 2 felony
- From 3 years up to 12.5 years in prison
- Fine of $150,000
If you are convicted of criminally negligent homicide, you will face the following penalties:
- Class 4 felony
- From one to 3.75 years in prison
- Fine of up to $150,000
If you have predicate felonies on your record, the sentence ranges for second-degree murder, manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide will significantly increase.
Even if you are convicted of a homicide offense and are not sentenced to life in prison or death, you will face severe collateral consequences after you complete your sentence and are released from prison.
While people with any type of felony conviction can struggle with stigma and the problems it can bring in their lives, the consequences of having a homicide offense on your record are even more severe. You may have trouble finding an employer willing to hire you for a job because of safety concerns. People with these types of convictions will also have trouble finding places to live or securing credit. When you are facing any kind of homicide charge, it is critical to retain a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling murder and homicide cases.
What Defenses are Available to Fight Homicide Charges?
The defenses that might be available to you will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case and the specific charge you are facing. Murder and homicide cases are frequently very complex and require significant investigation to build strong defenses. Some of the defenses that might be available to you include the following:
- The killing was not premeditated. You can raise this defense by challenging the prosecutor’s evidence of premeditation. If successful, a first-degree murder charge might be reduced to second-degree murder or manslaughter, depending on the facts.
- Self-defense or defense of others. The killing happened while you were defending yourself or a third party from the immediate threat of the victim’s use of deadly force and the degree of force you used was justified.
- You were misidentified. Eyewitness identification is problematic in many homicide cases. Research has demonstrated that eyewitness identification is frequently inaccurate, and people across the U.S. have been released from custody after DNA has shown that they did not commit the crimes for which they were convicted.
If a lineup process was used to identify and charge you, your attorney would carefully look at how the lineup was constructed and conducted. If the procedure was flawed, your lawyer can file a motion to challenge the identification procedure that was used. If successful, this could lead to a dismissal of the case against you.
- You had an alibi. If you could not have committed the crime because you were somewhere else, you might be able to raise an alibi defense. This type of defense will require you to present evidence that you were elsewhere.
For example, if you took a trip to another city, you could present plane or bus tickets, hotel receipts, gasoline receipts, restaurant receipts, videos showing you in the different location, and witnesses. A successful alibi defense could result in the dismissal of the charges against you. However, it will not work if you are charged with hiring someone else to kill the victim while you were elsewhere.
- The investigation and evidence against you are unreliable. Your attorney will carefully review everything in your case to determine whether the evidence and investigatory methods used were reliable or unreliable. Your attorney might retain experts to help to evaluate some types of evidence, including fingerprints, DNA, other forensic tests, and the investigation at the crime scene.
If the police conducted warrantless searches to seize evidence without exception to the search warrant requirement, your attorney might file a motion to suppress all of the evidence that was illegally gathered. Your lawyer might also look at whether all relevant evidence was gathered and whether the chain of custody was preserved. If the investigation was flawed and unreliable, your attorney might secure a dismissal of the charges against you or a plea to a significantly lower offense.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Colburn Hintze Maletta
Many other defenses might be available to you beyond the few that we listed. If you have been charged with a homicide offense or believe that you are under investigation for murder, it is critical for you to act quickly. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can thoroughly investigate your case to determine the best defense strategy to take and then aggressively defend you against murder charges or manslaughter charges. Contact Colburn Hintze Maletta today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 602-825-2500.
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