What is the Difference Between Manslaughter and Murder in Arizona?

We’ve all seen movies or television shows where a criminal defendant’s lawyer tries to get the prosecutor to agree to a plea deal. These fictional cases usually revolve around some sort of homicide. Sometimes, the character’s lawyer is trying to get murder charges reduced to something like voluntary manslaughter. To the viewer, this doesn’t mean all that much. It sounds like fancy legal lingo. In real life, however, the difference between these two crimes is huge. Arizona criminal attorneys understand that a murder conviction can carry with it a life sentence. A conviction for manslaughter, on the other hand, may mean the defendant is free after just a few years.

If your family is facing this kind of problem, you’re probably scared. Learning that you or your loved one have been arrested and charged with a homicide is life changing. One minute you’re going about your business. The next thing you know, your spouse is getting arrested in the middle of dinner. If this is where you find yourself, it’s time to call an experienced Arizona criminal attorney.

Both Crimes are Types of Homicide

Understanding the difference between murder and manslaughter can be confusing. There are some civil attorneys who don’t really understand the difference. Both crimes involve a homicide. Somebody was killed and the police suspect that you were somehow involved. Many states break down homicide offenses into several classifications. In Arizona, the types of criminal homicide are as follows:

There are also several homicide offenses that involve motor vehicle accidents. Unlike many other states, Arizona does not break manslaughter down into voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

The Criminal Code Distinguishes Between Murder and Manslaughter

The main difference between murder and manslaughter has to do with the defendant’s intent. If you intended for the victim to die, you’ll likely be charged with murder. If you acted recklessly, without any regard for whether the victim could die, you’ll be facing manslaughter charges. In both situations, the result is the same – the victim has been killed. However, murder is a more serious charge. The courts feel that somebody who intentionally took the life of another human being should be more severely punished for their crime.

Both Crimes Carry Very Serious Penalties

Arizona imposes very stiff penalties on people convicted of both murder and manslaughter. As mentioned earlier, the sentence for someone convicted of manslaughter will be much lighter than somebody charged and convicted of murder. The penalties in Arizona for both crimes are as follows:

  • Murder – Life in prison or death. The judge has discretion as to whether you’ll ever be eligible for parole.
  • Manslaughter – For a first offense, you’ll face anywhere from 7 to 21 years in prison. The presumptive sentence is typically 10 1/2 years.

Your Arizona criminal attorney’s job is to try to negotiate as light a sentence as possible. If they can’t get your charges reduced or dismissed, they’ll at least try to convince the prosecutor and the judge that you deserve the minimum sentence. If convicted of murder, they’ll ask that you be eligible for parole at some point.

Your Arizona Criminal Attorney Will Fight to Get the Charges Reduced or Dismissed

Ideally, your Arizona criminal attorney will be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss your charges altogether. For example, if the evidence the State intends to use was found during an illegal search, there’s a good chance you could be found not guilty. Knowing this, the prosecutor may be willing to reduce the charges. Since every case is unique, it’s hard to say what will happen in each individual case.

Contact a Skilled Arizona Criminal Attorney Right Away

Clearly, if you or a loved one have been charged with either murder or manslaughter, you’re in for a long legal battle. Regardless of which charge you’re facing, you’re looking at a lengthy prison sentence if convicted. That’s why it’s critical that you hire an Arizona criminal attorney right away. Having a seasoned lawyer could mean the difference between spending the rest of your life in prison or going home at the end of the trial.

Of course, the prosecutor likely has substantial evidence if you’ve been charged with homicide. That means it’ll take an Arizona criminal attorney to fight the charges. You need somebody who understands criminal law in Arizona and knows how to poke holes in the State’s case. You should contact a professional attorney as soon as possible after the charges have been filed.