If you are facing criminal charges for allegedly being responsible for the death of another person, it is critical to understand the nuances of Arizona’s homicide laws. The distinction between manslaughter and negligent homicide, for example, can make an enormous difference to the potential penalties and consequences associated with a conviction. 

What Is Manslaughter? 

Under Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) Section 13-1103, manslaughter means to recklessly cause the death of another person. Unlike a murder charge, manslaughter does not require proof of intent to kill or even injure a victim. Manslaughter does not have an element of premeditation or intent to take someone’s life. An individual can be charged with manslaughter for any reckless action or behavior that leads to someone else’s death.

Arizona’s definition of manslaughter also refers to committing second-degree murder in the heat of passion or due to a sudden quarrel provoked by the victim; committing second-degree murder while being coerced to do so by the use or threat of unlawful deadly physical force; knowingly and intentionally providing the physical means that another person uses to commit suicide; and knowingly or recklessly causing the death of an unborn child by injuring the mother.

Recklessness is defined as exhibiting a wanton disregard for the safety or health of others. It is a knowing and conscious decision to behave in a way that is likely to harm another person. If reckless behaviors result in the death of a human being, such as a drunk driver causing a fatal car accident, manslaughter charges can be filed. 

What Is Negligent Homicide? 

Negligent homicide is defined in ARS Section 13-1102 as causing the death of another person, including an unborn child, with criminal negligence. Criminal negligence means failing to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a certain result will occur or circumstance will exist (ARS 13-105d). The nature of the risk or circumstance must be such that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care.

Criminal negligence goes beyond ordinary negligence for which an individual could face civil liability. It demonstrates a conscious disregard for the safety of others; a substantial and irrational deviation from the degree of care that a normal and prudent person would have used in the same circumstances. While a suspect may not have intentionally meant to cause the victim’s death, he or she acted so carelessly that he or she failed to perceive an imminent risk that eventually took the victim’s life.

How Are These Two Crimes Different? 

Aside from the difference in definitions, manslaughter and negligent homicide have different criminal penalties in Arizona. In general, manslaughter is treated as a more serious crime than negligent homicide. Manslaughter is a Class 2 felony, while negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony.

The potential penalties for a manslaughter conviction include a mitigated prison sentence of 3 years, an aggravated sentence of 12.5 years and a presumptive sentence of 5 years. A negligent homicide conviction, on the other hand, is punishable with a mitigated sentence of 1 year, an aggravated sentence of 3.75 years and a presumptive sentence of 2.5 years.

Defending Against Manslaughter or Negligent Homicide Charges 

The types of defense strategies that may be available will also vary depending on whether a defendant is facing manslaughter or negligent homicide charges in Arizona. If you or a loved one has been arrested for either one of these crimes, do not hesitate to contact a Phoenix homicide defense lawyer at Corso Law Group for legal advice and representation. We will structure a defense strategy based on your unique needs and circumstances.

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