Homicide is one of the most serious crimes you can be charged with under Arizona law, and the penalties can be severe. Without experienced legal representation from a skilled Phoenix criminal defense attorney, you may find yourself facing life in prison or the death penalty with no one to protect your constitutional right to a fair and impartial trial.
Our criminal defense lawyers know how to build a solid criminal defense strategy. We believe everyone is entitled to present an aggressive legal defense to the charges against him or her. Below we discuss the various homicide charges in Arizona and potential defenses that could apply in your case.
What are the Different Homicide Charges in Arizona?
Homicide charges are felonies in Arizona. There are four classifications of homicides under state law:
- Negligent Homicide — A death caused by criminal negligence. A person is guilty of criminal negligence when he lacks the ability to see the potential danger of his actions to others. Negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony with a potential prison sentence of up to 3.75 years.
- Manslaughter — The death of another person caused by reckless behavior. A person is guilty of recklessness when he was aware that his irresponsible behavior was a danger to others. Manslaughter is a Class 2 felony with a potential prison sentence of three to 12.5 years.
- Second-Degree Murder — Second-degree murder is the offense of intentionally killing another person without premeditation. This homicide charge is a Class 1 felony with a potential prison sentence of ten to 22 years.
- First-Degree Murder — First-degree murder is the most serious degree of homicide. It is the premeditated, intentional taking of another life. First-degree murder is a Class 1 felony punishable by life in prison or death.
Homicide charges are extremely serious. You need to consult with an Arizona criminal defense attorney immediately.
The First Step in a Good Defense Is to Stay Quiet
First and foremost, if you are charged with homicide, you need to invoke your right to remain silent immediately except for asking for your attorney. The police can and will lie to you if they believe it will encourage you to give them information they can use against you to obtain a murder conviction.
Do not allow the police or a prosecutor to convince you that you need to tell your side of the story or that asking for an attorney makes you appear guilty. Talking to the police or the prosecutor without an attorney jeopardizes your ability to present a strong defense to the homicide charges. The first step in developing a successful defense strategy for homicide charges is for you to refuse to answer any questions without a lawyer present.
Once your criminal defense attorney meets with you to discuss your case, he will advise you when you should speak to a prosecutor or a law enforcement officer. In most cases, the first time he will want you to tell your story is in court in front of a jury. The prosecution can use any slight change in your story to paint you as untruthful in front of a jury. If the first time the prosecution hears your side of events is in court, it is far more difficult for the prosecutor to allege you are lying because you changed your story. Therefore, stay quiet! Wait for your attorney to arrive before saying anything.
Potential Homicide Defenses in Arizona
The homicide defenses available to you depend on the circumstances of your case. To develop the best defense strategy for your homicide charge, your AZ criminal defense attorney will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the alleged crime and review the state’s evidence against you. Based on what the attorney discovers, he will discuss potential defenses and strategies for your case.
Some homicide defense strategies that may be available include:
- Self-Defense — Self-defense is a common defense strategy, especially when you intended to harm someone because you feared for your life, but the act was not premeditated.
- Mistaken Identity — Proving that the prosecutor has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you are the person who committed the crime.
- Defense of Others — You were forced to take a life to prevent another person from being killed or sustaining a life-threatening injury.
- Inadvertent Act — Proving that the action that caused the death was not intentional, but simply negligent. This defense is used to attempt to reduce a murder charge to negligent homicide or manslaughter.
- Insanity or Temporary Insanity — You must prove that you did not understand the nature of your actions or you could not distinguish between right and wrong at the time the crime was committed.
This list is not a complete list of all defenses that may be available in your case. An experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer is your best option for mounting a successful defense to homicide charges. Call us today to arrange a free legal consultation with one of our skilled Phoenix criminal defense attorneys.