Phoenix Homicide & Murder Defense Lawyer

Homicide crimes are serious offenses that carry heavy penalties. If you have been charged with such a crime in Phoenix, whether it be vehicular homicide or other murder charge, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced Phoenix homicide lawyer as soon as possible. Contact AZ Defenders today. We have the knowledge, skills, and experience to effectively pursue the best possible outcome for you after being charged with a violent crime.

Phoenix Homicide Attorney

Why Hire AZ Defenders for Your Homicide Charge in Phoenix?

  • We understand how stressful it is to be charged with a homicide crime that carries severe criminal penalties. Our firm provides personalized service, handling every aspect of your case to make the process less difficult for you.
  • Our criminal defense attorneys in Phoenix have more than two decades of combined experience representing clients in the criminal justice system. You can rest assured that we will do everything within our power to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
  • Our law firm ranks among the most aggressive criminal defense firms in the country. We do not settle for guilty pleas, and we will fight for your rights in the courtroom.

Why You Need to Hire an Attorney for This Case

A conviction for murder in Arizona carries life-changing penalties – and could even cost you your life under the state’s death penalty. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights is essential during this difficult time. You need an attorney to protect your best interests during negotiations with the prosecution and/or a criminal trial in Maricopa County to achieve the best possible results for your case.

If you cannot afford to hire a private defense lawyer, the courts in Arizona will appoint a public defender for you. A public defender, however, typically will not have the same amount of time or resources to put toward your case as a private attorney. This could compromise your defense and lead to a negative case outcome. With so much at stake, don’t risk your future – hire an exceptional criminal defense attorney to represent you.

What Are the 4 Types of Homicide?

Homicide crimes are criminal offenses related to homicide or the death of a person deliberately or unlawfully caused by another. According to Arizona crime statistics, there were at least 331 reported murders in 2018, with 274 people arrested. There are several types of homicide, including:

  • Negligent homicide
  • Manslaughter
  • Second-degree murder
  • First-degree murder

At AZ Defenders, our Phoenix homicide attorneys have decades of experience handling homicide and murder charges, including negligent homicide, manslaughter, first- and second-degree murder. Contact us immediately if you or a loved one has been charged with homicide.

Penalties for Homicide in Arizona

Negligent Homicide

Under Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1102, a person commits negligent homicide if, with criminal negligence, he or she causes the death of another person, including an unborn child, at any stage of its development in the womb. Negligent homicide is a class four felony and is typically punishable with prison time. A person may not be prosecuted under this section if:

  • The person was performing an abortion for which consent had been obtained from the pregnant woman or a person authorized by law to act on her behalf, or for which consent was implied or authorized by law.
  • The person was performing medical treatment on the pregnant woman or unborn child.
  • The person was the mother of the unborn child.

While a negligent homicide charge is very similar to a manslaughter charge, manslaughter involves a “recklessness” standard that requires a gross deviation from a standard of conduct. A “negligence” standard involves a gross deviation from a standard of care. Generally, a negligent homicide charge does not carry as high a punishment as a manslaughter charge. Learn more about each criminal charge by consulting with a top homicide defense attorney in Phoenix.


Pursuant to ARS Section 13-1103, manslaughter is a class two felony. A person commits manslaughter by:

  • Recklessly causing the death of another person;
  • Committing second-degree murder upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion resulting from adequate provocation by the victim;
  • Intentionally providing the physical means that another person uses to commit suicide, with the knowledge that the person intends to commit suicide;
  • Committing second-degree murder while being coerced to do so by the use or threatened immediate use of unlawful deadly physical force upon the person or a third person which a reasonable person in the same situation would have been unable to resist; or
  • Knowingly or recklessly causing the death of an unborn child, at any stage of its development, by any physical injury to the mother.

Manslaughter charges can also include vehicular manslaughter. This type of manslaughter charge occurs usually when a person is drunk driving or driving under the influence and kills someone. Vehicular manslaughter is a criminal offense that falls under vehicular crimes and is categorized as a class two felony, which is generally punishable with prison time. The standard plea bargain for a manslaughter charge is 7-12 years in prison. Whether you are facing a voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter charge, speak with a skilled Phoenix homicide attorney also experienced in DUI defense at the law firm of AZ Defenders.

Second-Degree Murder

Arizona law on second degree murder is covered under ARS Section 13-1104. This crime is a class one felony and is punishable with prison time; however, a criminal charge of second-degree murder is not eligible for the death penalty. A person commits second-degree murder if, without premeditation, he or she:

  • Intentionally causes the death of another person, including an unborn child.
  • Causes the death of another person, including an unborn child, knowing that the person’s conduct will cause serious physical injury or death.
  • Recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death, thereby causing the death of another person, including an unborn child, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.

Second-degree murder is a killing that is committed in the absence of planning and in the spur of the moment. A second-degree murder charge differs from a manslaughter charge in that while it is also a spur of the moment killing, it occurs while a person is under an intense heat of passion. No such influence occurs in a second-degree killing.

First-Degree Murder

As stated in ARS Section 13-1105, first-degree murder is a class one felony punishable by life imprisonment or death. This violent crime is committed when, intending or knowing that his or her conduct will cause death, a person, with premeditation, causes the death of another person, including an unborn child; causes the death of a person, acting alone or with one or more persons, while in the process of committing any of a number of specific crimes; or intentionally or knowingly causes the death of a law enforcement officer acting in the line of duty.

What Is Arizona’s Felony Murder Rule?

In most cases, a defendant can only be convicted of murder if the prosecution proves that the defendant acted with intent to kill or reckless indifference to human life. In Arizona, however, the felony murder rule states that a defendant can be charged with first-degree murder for committing a dangerous felony crime that results in death, even if the defendant was not the victim’s killer. 

This rule only applies to crimes that are classified as inherently dangerous, meaning they come with a foreseeable risk of fatal consequences. If convicted, this crime comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. Examples of dangerous felony crimes include: 

  • Child abuse
  • Burglary
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • False imprisonment
  • Sexual assault
  • Rape
  • Sexual conduct with a minor
  • Battery 
  • Domestic violence
  • Drive-by shooting
  • Dangerous drug offenses
  • Unlawful flight from a pursuing law enforcement officer

If the elements of the underlying felony are concurrent with the elements of murder, the felony murder rule will not apply (such as in a case of assault). If an individual engaged in a dangerous felony crime that resulted in a death, he or she could face murder charges even without directly killing the victim(s). If you are being held responsible for the fatal consequences of a dangerous felony crime, contact a homicide defense attorney immediately, as you may receive a murder conviction without the prosecution needing to prove intent to kill.

Possible Defense Strategies Against Homicide or Murder Charges

Crafting a strong and aggressive defense strategy is something that an experienced attorney can do for you if you are facing homicide or murder charges in Phoenix. You need a lawyer you can trust to set a defense in motion that will protect you as much as possible. The strategy your attorney uses will depend on the scenario. Your lawyer may fight for case dismissal, a plea deal, not-guilty verdict (acquittal) or another positive outcome.

Potential defenses against murder and homicide charges in Arizona include:

  • Wrong defendant
  • Mistaken identity
  • Unavoidable accident or misfortune (accidental killing)
  • No intent to injure or kill the victim
  • Failure to prove the elements of the charge
  • Lack of evidence
  • Did not act with premeditation
  • Justified killing
  • Acted in self-defense or defense of others
  • Battered Woman Syndrome
  • Exercise of duty (e.g., killings by law enforcement)
  • Prevention of a crime
  • Coerced confession
  • Diminished mental capacity, impairment or insanity

Another possibility is arguing that the killing occurred in the heat of passion (while under duress or emotional distress) to reduce the charges. This means that you lashed out at the victim in an outburst of passion, such as involving a case of adultery, rather than premeditated murder. This defense could reduce the charges to involuntary manslaughter, resulting in a lessened sentence. Your lawyer will analyze your specific situation to determine the right defense for you.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation With a Phoenix Murder Lawyer

Homicide crimes are among the most serious charges you could face. Call the AZ Defenders law office at (480) 456-6400 to speak with one of our Phoenix homicide defense lawyers as soon as possible for experienced criminal defense. Or, if you prefer, you may contact us online to discuss your homicide charge or murder case.

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Wow!!  If you want exceptional legal counsel and representation look no further. From the first phone call, I was impressed with their level of professionalism and ability to handle a situation as complex as mine. Thanks to their guidance I am back on my way to pursuing a life that I wondered if I could even get back to. Thanks especially to Jonathan and Tiffany!  They were so patient and understanding throughout it all.

– M. R.

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