Second Degree Murder

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Second Degree Murder

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If you face second-degree murder charges, the criminal defense attorney you choose could change the entire course of your life. Anytime a defendant faces charges for murder, homicide, or violent crimes, it is imperative that they have the best possible representation. A good criminal defense attorney will examine all the facts of your case, gather as many expert witnesses as possible, and fight for your future every step of the way. 

At the Belén Law Firm, we provide aggressive defense for our clients throughout Phoenix and other parts of Arizona. Belén Olmedo Guerra has handled a significant number of high-profile Arizona criminal defense cases, and she can handle yours too. As a highly experienced trial lawyer, she understands how to build a tight defense by arming herself with as much information as possible. To discuss your charges, we invite you to call our Phoenix office today at 602-715-0908. We offer free initial case evaluations, and we’re available 24/7 for your convenience. 

What Is Second Degree Murder?

Murder charges are very serious, and carry some of the most extreme penalties of all crimes. The outcome and consequences of your case will follow you for life. For this reason, it is extremely important that you understand second-degree murder, as well as the difference between that and the other degrees of murder. In this section, we discuss the specifics of what second-degree murder actually is.

Generally, second-degree murder is not considered as serious a crime as first-degree murder. However, its penalties are still very heavy if you are convicted. Under ARS 13-1104, second-degree murder occurs when if any of the following conditions are met.

  • Intentionally causing the death of another person
  • Performing an act which they knew would cause death or serious physical injury and which resulted in the death of another person
  • While demonstrating extreme indifference to human life, recklessly engaging in actions that create a significant risk of death and then cause the death of an individual

In all of the above cases, there must not have been premeditation to the murder that took place. If a murder occurs with premeditation, it is then classified as first-degree murder in Arizona.

What Is the Difference Between First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder?

Murder in the first and second degrees have notable differences. It is important to know these differences, as they change what your potential penalties are. In this section, we explain the difference between the two degrees, as well as the required penalty for their charges.

First Degree Murder:

In Arizona, first-degree murder occurs when:

  • Someone intends to kill or knows that their actions will cause death
  • Their actions result in the death of another person or other people
  • They committed the murder with premeditation

Second Degree Murder:

In Arizona, second-degree murder occurs when:

  • Someone intentionally causes the death of another person, but without premeditation
  • A person demonstrates conduct that shows an extreme indifference to human life, or recklessly engages in actions that produce a significant risk of death that then causes the death of someone else

The principal difference between the two charges is the defendant’s perceived premeditation. In order to be charged with first-degree murder in Arizona, the prosecution must argue and prove premeditation. This premeditation can occur over either a long or short period of time and is an essential element in defending your case. Penalties for these two charges vary in a few ways, as we explain below.

What Are the Penalties?

It goes without saying that second-degree murder is an extremely serious offense, registering as a Class 1 felony in Arizona. Thus, you can expect the penalties to be just as serious. An experienced criminal defense attorney will prioritize getting the most serious penalties off the table right away. 

Second Degree Murder Penalties:

  • Minimum 10 years in prison
  • Presumptive 16-year prison term
    • If there were aggravating circumstances, the sentence could be longer. 
  • Maximum 25-year prison term

These sentences also fall under the “day-to-day” requirement, meaning that will not receive an early release due to “good behavior.”

Learn More About Arizona’s Felony Sentencing Chart Here

What Is Manslaughter? How Is It Different?

Many people use the terms “murder” and “manslaughter” interchangeably. However, they are notably different crimes, with different specifics and different penalties. According to ARS 13-1103, manslaughter is defined or described in the following ways.

  • Recklessly causing someone else’s death
  • Intentionally killing someone else in the heat of passion, or in an altercation resulting from reasonable provocation from the victim
  • Intentionally aiding another person in committing suicide
  • Knowingly killing another person while being coerced or threatened with deadly force by a third party

Aside from the definition of manslaughter, it also differs from murder in its potential penalties. Due to its classification as a Class 2 felony, it is not prosecuted as harshly as murder. Below, we cover the potential penalties for manslaughter in Arizona.

  • For a first offense, there is a minimum of 7 years in prison, with a presumptive sentence of 10 ½ years. The maximum sentence is 21 years in prison.
  • If someone has one prior dangerous felony conviction, the range of time increases. The minimum sentence is 14 years, the presumptive sentence is 15 ¾ years, and the maximum sentence is 28 years.
  • If someone has two prior dangerous felony convictions, the ranges increase even further. The minimum mandatory prison sentence is 21 years, the presumptive sentence is 28 years, and the maximum sentence is 35 years.

What is Negligent Homicide? How Is It Different?

Negligent homicide is a kind of involuntary manslaughter, which is a lower offense than manslaughter or murder. If you inadvertently cause the death of another person due to criminal carelessness, you may be prosecuted with negligent homicide.

Criminal negligence is defined as failing to behave with reasonable caution or to recognize evident hazards associated with your conduct. According to ARS 13-1102, negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony that carries a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of 3.75 years for a first conviction. Second offenses may result in a sentence of up to 7.5 years. You will lose your weapon license and have a criminal record in any case.

What Are My Defenses?

At the Belén Law Firm, we prioritize maintaining a diverse team that offers our clients the best possible defense. We listen to the evidence, not the allegations. With that in mind, our team formulates customized defense plans for your case. Below, we list some examples of defenses we’ve used in the past for our clients.

(1) Sometimes, the prosecution presents weak, unreliable evidence. When this happens, we can crack their case against you wide open.

(2) Self-defense is also a very valid example. Dangerous situations can arise out of nowhere, and you might not have time to assess all your options. If another person attempts or threatens the use of deadly force against you, your use of deadly force may be justified.

(3) Your use of deadly force may also be justified if you were protecting someone else from harm.

(4) Another justification arises when you use deadly force to prevent the commission of a very serious crime, such as murder, aggravated assault, or others.

Some of our other defenses include being forced to commit the crime, acting in a sudden heat of passion or a quarrel, acting as a result of proper use of your prescription medication, and acting as a result of some mental illness which prevented you from refraining.

Call For a Free Initial Case Evaluation

If you’re facing charges for second-degree murder or another type of crime that resulted in someone’s death, your attorney is responsible for fighting for your future – and possibly your life. Don’t settle for less than an aggressive, experienced attorney with the courtroom skills to save your future. Belén Olmedo Guerra has worked on a number of high-profile cases and has the legal ammunition necessary to put you in the best position for a favorable outcome. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or call 602-715-0908 for more information.

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