Understanding Arizona’s Homicide Laws

If you kill someone in Arizona, with or without the intention to do so, that is a homicide. But did you know that Arizona law specifies four types of homicide for which you could face charges?

fresh homicide crime scene with yellow tape at night It is true. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death you allegedly caused, you could face prosecution for one of the following four crimes:

  1. First-degree murder
  2. Second-degree murder
  3. Manslaughter
  4. Negligent homicide

First-degree murder

To convict you of first-degree murder, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly and purposefully killed another human being. What this means is that the prosecutor must prove that you had the opportunity prior to the alleged killing to think about what you intended to do and proceeded to intentionally do it. Actually, the prosecutor need not prove that you killed the person right then. All (s)he needs to prove is that you intentionally injured the person to such an extent that he or she died as a result of those injuries.

Second-degree murder

To convict you of second-degree murder, the prosecutor must prove that you intentionally killed another human being, but did so without any premeditation. In other words, second-degree murder happens on the spur of the moment. Nevertheless, the prosecutor must prove that you knew that your alleged actions could or would result in your alleged victim’s death.


Manslaughter is a very broad crime in Arizona. You could face manslaughter charges if you allegedly did any of the following:

  • Intentionally helped someone commit suicide
  • Intentionally killed someone after (s)he provoked you
  • Intentionally killed someone because someone else forced you to do so by threatening you with deadly force if you did not
  • Recklessly caused someone’s death
  • Killed an unborn child by injuring the child’s mother

Negligent homicide

Negligent homicide is similar to but different than manslaughter. Both involve the death of another human being that you allegedly caused. However, whereas the prosecutor must prove that you acted recklessly in order to convict you of manslaughter, (s)he must only prove that you acted negligently in order to convict you of negligent homicide.

Two common types of negligent homicide for which you could face conviction are vehicular homicide and the accidental death of your child. To convict you of the former, the prosecutor must prove that you drove a vehicle in such a negligent manner that you killed someone else. To convict you of the latter, the prosecutor must prove that you negligently failed to prevent your child from suffering an accidental death.


If convicted of any of the above, you face a substantial prison sentence. Consequently, if charged with any kind of homicide, your best strategy is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and present the best possible defense.

The Nolan Law Firm