Understanding the different types of homicide charges

One of the most serious and emotional criminal accusations that can happen to a person is to be charged with murder.Under Arizona law, there are four instances that determine the severity of a homicide charge.  A person can be charged as follows:

  • Negligent homicide – takes place through careless and criminal negligence such as with drunk driving resulting in a death.
  • Manslaughter – is defined as, when a person’s recklessness knowingly endangers the lives of others.
  • Second-degree murder – takes place when someone intentionally kills someone else, but the act was not done with forethought.
  • First-degree murder – happens when someone plans and carries out the premeditated death of another person.

These distinctions are important because each charge has its own level of severity and resulting penalties.  A seasoned homicide lawyer will frame defenses differently for each type of homicide charge, building a defense that gives an accused defendant the best possible chance of a reduced penalty or being found innocent.

In defending a homicide charge, an attorney may not always seek to have the charges dismissed, but rather find ways to have a homicide charge reduced to a less serious charge.  There is a big distinction between a charge of first-degree murder and manslaughter, for example.

In framing a defense, a homicide lawyer may use a couple of approaches:

  • Justifiable homicide –used by the defense to show a defendant acted honestly in the belief that the homicide was necessary for self-defense.
  • Inability to intentionally kill – also known as an insanity defense.
  • Reasonable mistake – a defense that makes the case that the defendant does not have the required mental state to understand killing is illegal

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves the cities of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities.