Understanding the Types of Homicide in Arizona

Homicide in Arizona has different categories.

Understanding the Types of Homicide in Arizona

Homicide, or causing the death of another person, is a serious offense throughout the country. In Arizona, homicide isn’t a single specific charge. Instead, it is classified into one of four different categories depending on the nature of the crime. Consequences for convictions can be severe and can include life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

These classifications – negligent homicide, manslaughter, second degree murder, and first degree murder – have unique definitions with varying sentencing terms. As such, it is important to have a capable defense attorney on the case who understands the legal ramifications of each category.

First Degree Murder

As defined in A.R.S. 13-1105, first degree murder is the most serious homicide charge in the state of Arizona. An offender is charged with first degree murder when they intentionally caused the death of another person through premeditation. Additionally, an individual can be charged with this offense if they caused the death of another person while in the act of committing another felony offense, such as sexual assault, kidnapping, or terrorism.

Examples include plotting and committing another person’s murder out of retaliation and abducting another person in which they perish during the crime.

First degree murder is a class 1 felony. Offenders aged 18 or older can be sentenced to the death penalty or natural life in prison. Offenders who are minors may also be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Second Degree Murder

As defined in A.R.S. 13-1104, second degree murder involves intentionally causing another person’s death without premeditation. As such, it is a slightly lesser charge than first degree murder. Second degree murder can also be charged in situations where causing another person’s death caused the death of an unborn child, or during circumstances that demonstrated extreme recklessness or indifference to human life.

Shooting and killing another person in a fit of road rage is an example of second degree murder.

Second degree murder is a class 1 felony. Those convicted can face up to 25 years in prison, or up to 29 years in prison for a repeat offender.


As defined in A.R.S. 13-1103, a charge of manslaughter actually encompasses many different homicide scenarios that are not premeditated. It includes the death of another person that results from quarrels, moments in the heat of passion, actions that would knowingly cause serious injury or death, assisted suicide, and certain reckless conduct.

Arizona does not differentiate between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

Examples include accidentally shooting and killing another person as a result of mishandling a firearm or killing a spouse upon discovering them mid-affair. It can also include vehicular manslaughter, such as that which could result from driving under the influence.

Manslaughter is a class 2 felony that can result in up to 21 years of incarceration.

Negligent Homicide

As defined in A.R.S. 13-1102, negligent homicide is the least serious of all the homicide charges in Arizona. Negligent homicide is committed when another person’s death is caused as a result of criminal negligence.

An example quite relevant to the state of Arizona is leaving a child in a locked car while running errands, resulting in their death from extreme heat.

Negligent homicide is a class 4 felony. Offenders can face up to 3.75 years of incarceration, while repeat offenders can face up to 15 years of incarceration.



With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.

Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:

  • charges that are reduced or dropped.
  • top experts reviewing your case.
  • aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
  • fines or probation in lieu of jail time.

At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.

Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.



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