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A criminal charge for manslaughter carries with it some of the most severe consequences under Arizona law. Sentencing for manslaughter can mean decades spent in prison. Educating yourself about this type of homicide charge and developing a robust manslaughter defense with the help of an experienced manslaughter lawyer is mandatory.

Manslaughter – The Five Different Types

Under Arizona law, A.R.S. § 13-1103, a person can be charged five different ways:

  1. Manslaughter – Reckless
  2. Manslaughter by Sudden Quarrel or Heat of Passion
  3. Manslaughter by Force
  4. Manslaughter by Aiding Suicide
  5. Manslaughter of Unborn Child

Each of the five types of this murder charge are explained in further detail below:

Involuntary vs Voluntary Manslaughter

Sometimes you hear the crime of manslaughter referred to as either involuntary or voluntary. Involuntary manslaughter is committed unintentionally, whereas voluntary manslaughter is committed intentionally.

However, since 1978, Arizona does not classify manslaughter as either involuntary or voluntary. In 1978, Negligent Homicide was added as a homicide classification. The Negligent Homicide law in Arizona includes crimes that used to be called involuntary manslaughter. So, in Arizona:

Sentencing for Manslaughter

Manslaughter is a Class 2 Felony.

If you have no prior criminal record, and you did not use a deadly weapon (e.g., a gun) or a dangerous instrument (e.g., a car or a hammer) to commit the crime, then the sentencing for manslaughter could be:

You face longer time in prison if you have a criminal record.

If you are charged with manslaughter as a Class 2 Dangerous Felony, meaning that you either used a deadly weapon (e.g., a gun) or a dangerous instrument (e.g., a car or a hammer), then a prison sentence is mandatory. If this is the case, then the sentencing for manslaughter could be:

And if you have a criminal record, then you again face longer time in prison.

Involuntary manslaughter

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Defenses to Manslaughter

Because this crime can be committed in different ways, the case strategy and what defenses to use depend on the circumstances of an individual case. Common defenses include:

1. Poor Quality of the Evidence and Investigation

This is a common defense for all types of criminal charges. Your defense attorney will also help you determine whether any experts need to be hired to attack the reliability of the evidence being used against you. Examples of the types of evidence or areas of the investigation that you can fight include:

Securing of the crime scene – Was the crime scene properly preserved and documented?

Collection of physical evidence such as blood, guns, ammunition – Were proper procedures followed? Did the police fail to preserve important evidence?

Blood alcohol or drug test results – Did the police’s crime laboratory follow proper methods in testing evidence? Are the test results accurate and reliable?

Crime scene reconstruction – Did the prosecution’s expert use a faulty method in reconstructing how the crime occurred?

Eyewitnesses – How reliable is the prosecution’s eyewitnesses? What ulterior motives do they have?

2. Someone Else or Something Else Caused the Death

A very important defense is that you did not cause the death of the other person. For example, while in the heat of passion, you shoot someone. The person you shot is driven to the hospital but gets into a car accident on the way there. The person you shot ultimately dies. The prosecution charges you with manslaughter for shooting and killing the person. But your independent defense expert reviews the evidence and finds that the person died from the car accident injuries, not from the gunshot injuries.

3. Your Actions Were Not Reckless

Another defense is to show that your behavior did not rise to the level of recklessness. Maybe the prosecution overcharged you and your actions were only criminally negligent, not reckless. So, you should have been charged with the less serious crime of negligent homicide, not Manslaughter. Also, maybe the cause of death was just an accident, not criminal conduct. For example, a gun accidentally went off when someone else tried to grab the gun from you, causing it to go off and kill another person.

Manslaughter Lawyer

When facing the serious charges, you need to ensure that you have an experienced manslaughter lawyer on your side. You need the best possible strategy and defense for your individual case. At Feldman & Royle, our homicide attorneys have successfully defended clients charged with all types of murder. Contact our office as soon as possible for a free consultation.

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