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Murder vs. Manslaughter in Arizona


While both these criminal offenses involve the death of a person, manslaughter and murder are completely different from one another. Below is an in-depth explanation of each violent crime.


There are two types of murder charges in Arizona: first-degree murder and second-degree murder.

First-degree murder occurs when a person takes the life of another through a premeditated and intentional act. This is considered the most serious degree of murder, punishable by a life sentence without the possibility of parole and even death.

Second-degree murder is when a person intentionally kills another, but without the element of premeditation. Basically, this is a killing that occurs in the spur of the moment. The maximum prison sentence for second-degree murder is 22 years.


In Arizona, the law doesn’t recognize the crime of manslaughter as voluntary or involuntary. Instead, it is either “manslaughter” or “negligent homicide.”

The following are the potential actions that give rise to a manslaughter charge:

  • Intentionally or knowingly killing an individual in the heat of passion
  • Recklessly causing the death of another person
  • Intentionally killing another individual while being forced to do so
  • Causing the death of an unborn child by injuring the mother
  • Intentionally assisting another in committing suicide

While negligent homicide and manslaughter share similar elements, manslaughter is a “recklessness” standard which requires a gross deviation from a standard of conduct compared to a “negligence” standard involving a gross deviation form a standard of care.

One scenario of negligent homicide involves a vehicular homicide where the driver kills another individual. The second occurs when parents whose children die in an accident and the prosecutor alleges it is the parent’s fault for not being more attentive and protective.

Manslaughter is considered a Class 2 felony, punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony, punishable by a maximum prison sentence of eight years.

Contact our Mesa criminal defense lawyers at (480) 418-0776 for more information.

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