Involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide describe the criminal charge that involves the death of another person. While they both concern the act of killing someone, they differ from the more severe forms of punishment of first-degree murder and voluntary homicide. The difference comes from the intention behind the death and whether it was a premeditated act. This post from Belén Law Firm will go into further detail about the differences between involuntary manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the state of Arizona. It will also cover what to do if you or a loved one has been charged with one of these crimes


Manslaughter is the criminal charge given to an individual who has committed the act of killing another person. However, this charge is less severe than that of murder and results in a lesser sentence or punishment. There are two subcategories of manslaughter: involuntary or voluntary. The charge given depends on the circumstances of the intent behind the act.

Intent can be broken down into four different components. These include purpose, knowing, recklessness, and negligence. “Purpose” holds the most accountability, with decreasing accountability from “knowing” down to “negligence.” 

Voluntary manslaughter is the more serious of the two and falls into the upper categories of “purpose” or “knowing” in level of intent. “Purpose” means that the person committed the crime willingly and with a specific intention in place. “Knowing” means the person committed the crime with the knowledge that the actions would likely bring a certain outcome. 

What separates voluntary manslaughter from murder is what is referred to as the “heat of passion.” This means that the perpetrator faced an overwhelming surge of emotion at the time of the incident and, as a result, lost all sense of reasonable judgement. It does not excuse the act or behavior, but instead gives a small sort of loophole for people who are proven to have been strongly provoked or overwhelmed at the time of the death’s occurrence.

Involuntary manslaughter in Phoenix occurs when the level of intent falls into the “recklessness” or “negligence” categories. Recklessness occurs when an individual acts in a reckless manner and ignores the consequences that may result from their actions. Negligence holds the least accountability and is the result of an individual failing to recognize the extent of the risk in his or her behavior. 


In Arizona, criminally negligent homicide is a type of involuntary manslaughter. This means an act of recklessness or negligence caused the death of another person. The death must not have been intentional or planned in any way. Rather, it was the result of an accident. The most common type of involuntary manslaughter, or criminally negligent homicide, is vehicular homicide. Most often, this occurs when an individual is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes an accident that results in another’s death. Speeding, distracted driving, and otherwise reckless or unlawful driving can also result in a criminally negligent homicide charge. 

Other cases of negligent homicide can include deaths that are a direct result of carelessly firing a weapon into the air or into a crowd, hunting accidents, leaving a child in a hot car, a fight or physical altercation, or starting a fire. In some jurisdictions, including Arizona, accidents that cause the death of an unborn child at any stage of development are also criminally negligent homicides. However, this does not apply to medical professionals performing an abortion or if the accident was caused by the mother of the child. 

Essentially, criminally negligent homicide is any type of accidental death caused by the reckless or negligent behavior of an individual.


Involuntary manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in Arizona are fundamentally the same. The terminology used comes down to what jurisdiction your area falls under. In some cases, jurisdictions may use the term “criminally negligent homicide” to refer to a crime that does not meet the level of recklessness it takes to be considered manslaughter. The use of either term is subjective to the case itself and depends on the area where the crime took place. 


Some states classify negligent homicide as a misdemeanor with the exception of DUI cases, while others classify it as a felony. In the state of Arizona, criminally negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony. The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is that a misdemeanor is less serious. It results in smaller sentences and fines than a felony. Felonies are the most serious crime an individual can commit. They can result in longer jail time, a higher number in fines, and sometimes a permanent loss of freedoms.


If you have been convicted of a felony, you would likely be looking at a prison sentence. Though both are considered felonies, different sentences are given out for dangerous and non-dangerous offenses. The crime is dangerous if the homicide involved the use of a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon. If a weapon was not used in the homicide, it is considered a non-dangerous felony.

In Arizona, a first offense for non-dangerous negligent homicide is met with a minimum sentence of 1 year in prison and a maximum of up to 3.75 years. For non-dangerous repeat offenders, the sentence will raise to a minimum of 2.25 years and up to 7.5 years maximum. In addition to prison time, both first time and repeat offenders are required to serve probation.

The involvement of a weapon in a negligent homicide case would increase the charge to a dangerous offense. The sentence itself would increase to a minimum of at least 4 years with a maximum of 8 years. 

Both dangerous and non-dangerous offenses of negligent homicide will result in a permanent criminal record, requiring the offender to register as a felon, and the confiscation of any firearm licenses.


If you or someone you love has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, you are probably unsure of your next move. You need someone on your side who will fight hard for you and your future. Belén Law Firm is a top Phoenix Criminal Defense Law Firm and will work in your defense to achieve the best possible outcome for your situation. Contact Belén Law Firm today to discuss your case. We offer free case evaluations and are available 24/7. You can reach us at 602-715-0908.