Too often a tragic accident or one giant mistake can impact your entire life. If you or a loved one have been charged with second degree murder, then you should know that the state of Arizona will use any and all its resources to secure a conviction. Because a conviction for second degree murder brings substantial prison time you must be armed with information and a solid legal defense. In order to avoid the destruction that a conviction can bring, you should utilize the skills of an experienced homicide attorney in batting this serious homicide charge.
The crime of second degree murder is defined in A.R.S. § 13-1104 of Arizona law. There are different ways in which you can be convicted. To prove that you committed the crime, the prosecutor must show that:
If you or a loved one have been charged with second-degree murder then you may already know the challenge you are up against. The first step to defending the charges against you is to understand the crime of second degree murder and the defenses that may be available to your charge.
The difference between second degree murder and first degree murder is that there is no premeditation with second degree murder. This means that the prosecutor does not have to show that a person planned or thought about the killing in any way.
The difference between second degree murder and manslaughter can be explained by understanding two main differences:
Higher level of blame. To commit second degree murder, you have to have a higher level of blame in the way you were thinking when you caused the death of another person—what the law calls a “more culpable mental state.” While both second degree murder and manslaughter involve reckless behavior that causes a death, second degree murder charge goes beyond the reckless behavior in a manslaughter charge. There is the added factor of an “extreme indifference to human life” that created a “grave risk of death.”
No sudden quarrel or heat of passion. Also, if you intentionally or knowingly killed someone, but you did so as result of a sudden argument or being in the heat of passion, then you have committed Manslaughter, not second degree murder.
Many reckless second degree murder charges are actually second degree vehicular homicide charges.
Second Degree Murder is a Class 1 Felony.
If convicted, sentencing for second degree murder in Arizona requires that you face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Specific to sentencing for Second Degree Murder, Arizona law calls these years in prison “calendar years.” This means that the prison time that you are sentenced to is “flat” prison time—you are not eligible for parole or any other type of release from prison if you are sentenced for Second Degree Murder.
SIDE NOTE: Many online resources state that the maximum sentencing for second degree murder is 22 years in prison. However, in 2012, the Arizona legislature changed the maximum prison sentence from 22 years to 25 years. Presumably, much of the information you may find online is outdated material.
Attempted Second Degree Murder is charged when someone has the intent to commit the murder and takes action in furtherance to commit the murder. But in the end the person fails to commit the murder.
Attempted Second Degree Murder can only be charged if the person either intended to or knowingly attempted to cause the death of another. It is not enough to show that the person intended to do serious bodily harm. Also, it cannot be charged if the person’s actions were only reckless (requires extreme indifference to human life).
Attempt drops the crime down from a Class 1 Felony to a Class 2 Felony.
For attempted second degree murder, which is a Class 2 Felony, you will typically face a minimum sentence of 7 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison.
When charged with a charge as serious as second-degree murder, it is of the upmost importance the best possible defense strategy be utilized. Some of the more common and effective defenses are as follows:
This is a common defense that applies to almost every case. The police do not always carry out a complete investigation and neglect to follow up on important information. Their reports can include sloppy copy-and-paste jobs. The prosecution’s experts in areas such as ballistics, DNA analysis, forensic toxicology, or crime-scene reconstruction may have used faulty methods. Witnesses for the prosecution may be biased or mistaken in what they say they saw.
You may use deadly physical force in self-defense only to protect yourself against another person’s use, attempted use, or threatened use of deadly physical force against you. The use of deadly physical force is justified if a reasonable person in your situation would have reasonably believed that immediate deadly physical danger appeared to be present. The existence of actual danger is not necessary.
You may use deadly physical force to defend a third person to protect that person from another person’s use or threatened use of deadly physical force against the third person. Like in self-defense, the use of deadly physical force is justified if a reasonable person in your situation would have reasonably believed that immediate deadly physical danger appeared to be present. Also, the existence of actual danger is not necessary.
You may use deadly physical force against another person if you reasonably believed that deadly physical force was immediately necessary to prevent the other person from committing one of the listed crimes in A.R.S. § 13-411(A):
If you were forced to commit Reckless Second Degree Murder (showed extreme indifference to human life and created a grave risk of death) by the use or threatened immediate use of unlawful deadly force against you or another person, then you should be convicted of the less serious offense of Manslaughter, not Second Degree Murder.
If the murder was committed upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion as a result of the victim doing something to you that would have caused a reasonable person to lose control, then you should be convicted of the less serious offense of Manslaughter, not Second Degree Murder.
Maybe you committed the crime because of temporary intoxication from your proper use of your legally prescribed medication. If this is the case, then your temporary intoxication prevented you from having the required intent or knowledge to commit the crime of second degree murder.
SIDE NOTE: This is an affirmative defense that you have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence (that it is more probably true than not true). So, it is unlike other defenses such as self-defense where the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not act in self-defense.
Also, it is not a defense to any crime if you were temporarily intoxicated from the voluntary use of:
To establish a Guilty Except Insane defense, the defendant must prove that at the time of the murder, the defendant suffered from a mental illness that prevented the defendant from knowing the difference between right and wrong. For example, a person who suffers from schizophrenia may have killed another person during a paranoid delusional episode. So, this person would not have known that the killing was wrong as a result of the mental illness.
SIDE NOTE: This is also an affirmative defense and the defense must prove insanity by clear and convincing evidence (meaning it was highly probable that the defendant was insane).
If you face second degree murder charges, then you will need a defense attorney who has the expertise to protect you from the serious consequences that accompany such a crime. The experienced homicide attorneys at Feldman & Royle are here to help you. Call to schedule a free and confidential consultation.