What is Involuntary Manslaughter in Arizona?

Manslaughter is an unlawful killing that doesn’t involve malice or intent to kill. There are states that differentiate between involuntary manslaughter and voluntary manslaughter; Arizona is not one of them.  If you’re charged in the state of Arizona, you won’t see a charge for “involuntary manslaughter.”  You will fall into one of two categories: manslaughter or negligent homicide.

In this post, Phoenix manslaughter defense attorney Belen Olmedo Guerra will answer questions surrounding the equivalent of involuntary manslaughter in Arizona, as well as the possible penalties

What is Manslaughter in Arizona? 

Arizona defines manslaughter pretty broadly. There are multiple scenarios that might result in a manslaughter charge. Some of these possible scenarios are:

Intentionally Suicide Assistance

Arizona is one of many states in which assisted suicide is illegal. The law prohibits even licensed medical professionals from assisting suicide. 

In Arizona, if you help someone end their own life, the state will charge you with manslaughter. There was an attempt to change this in the Arizona legislature in 2019. This attempt failed. As of now, even if you are helping a terminally ill person end their life, Arizona courts can and will charge you with manslaughter.

This requires that you take action with the intent to end the other person’s life.

Intentionally or Knowingly Killing A Person After Provocation 

This applies if you were to end someone’s life in the midst of an argument. This means that the crime is not premeditated; you did not go in planning to kill the other person. The crime occurred in a “sudden quarrel” or “heat of passion”. 

To prove you are guilty, the prosecution must prove that you acted with both intent and knowledge. 

Being Forced to Intentionally Kill Someone 

If someone forces you to commit homicide under threat or duress, Arizona classifies this act as manslaughter rather than homicide. This law requires that the threat be something a reasonable person in that situation could not resist. 

Recklessly Causing the Death of Another Person

This could be anything from causing someone’s death while committing a separate crime to accidentally shooting someone while firing a gun. 

In order to charge you with manslaughter in a scenario like this, the prosecution must prove you behaved recklessly. While the other forms of manslaughter require intent and knowledge that you are causing someone’s death, this scenario does not. The prosecution only has to prove that you acted in a way that you knew might put others in danger.

Of all the manslaughter charges in Arizona, this is the closest to involuntary manslaughter.

Causing the Death of an Unborn Child by Injuring the Mother 

This mostly applies to those who cause the death of an unborn child by unlawfully injuring the mother. For instance, if you cause a pregnant woman to fall down the stairs and she survives but her unborn child does not, the state of Arizona considers this act to be manslaughter.

There are some important exceptions to this rule. There are protections in place for those who provide authorized abortions. The law also protects those who provide medical services to the mother and child. 

What is Negligent Homicide in Arizona?

In short, negligent homicide is when one person’s negligence causes the death of another person. This is very similar to involuntary manslaughter in other states. In Arizona, manslaughter often involves a “recklessness” standard. As we talked about above, this means that you acted with a gross deviation from a standard of conduct. 

For instance, there is a standard of conduct when you are out walking on the street. If you deviate from that standard of conduct and that results in another person’s death, you acted recklessly. 

For negligent homicide, the standard is not recklessness, but negligence. For negligence to occur, you must deviate grossly from a standard of care rather than conduct. Though you can commit vehicular homicide recklessly, it is more likely that vehicular homicide will fall under the category of negligent homicide. 

There are two scenarios that usually elicit a negligent homicide charge in Arizona. The first is vehicular homicide. The second is in the event that a child dies in an accident, the prosecution can allege their parents were at fault. 

Criminal Negligence 

Let’s talk some more about the standard of negligence. Being criminally negligent is different than common negligence. Criminal negligence requires that the defendant acted very unreasonably. 

Criminal negligence doesn’t always mean an unlawful act, either. Driving isn’t illegal. But if someone drives in a negligent and reckless manner and someone else dies, that is criminally negligent behavior. The person in question has ignored their duty to act with consideration.

Take that second scenario we mentioned above. Parents have a legal duty to protect and care for their children. If they fail to perform this duty and their child loses their life, a court can charge that parent with negligent homicide.

Again, in other states, this would likely be involuntary manslaughter. 

What are the Penalties for Manslaughter in Arizona? 

Manslaughter is a class 2 felony in Arizona. 

There are many factors which affect the penalties for manslaughter, such as:

  • Prior felonies
  • Whether or not it is a dangerous offense; i.e., whether the defendant involved a deadly weapon

The range of penalties for manslaughter is:

  • Mitigated sentence: 3 years of prison time
  • Minimum sentence: 4 years of prison time
  • Presumptive sentence: 5 years of prison time
  • Maximum sentence: 10 years of prison time
  • Aggravated sentence: 12.5 years of prison time. 

What are the Penalties for Negligent Homicide in Arizona?

Negligent homicide is a class 4 felony in Arizona.

Prison time could be anywhere from 1 to 8 years. There could also be significant fines, restitution, and a suspension of your driver’s license. 

Contact the Belen Law Firm for Negligent Homicide Defense in Phoenix, Arizona

For more information about the equivalent of involuntary manslaughter in Arizona, call the top Phoenix criminal lawyers at Belen Law Firm at 602.715.0908. Phones are open for 24/7 legal advice, and we accept collect calls from inmates. We can schedule your free and confidential consultation over the phone, or you can fill out the form on our website.