second degree murder attorney phoenix

Second Degree Murder Lawyer in Phoenix

If you face second-degree murder charges, the Phoenix 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. After all, the 2nd degree murders sentences Arizona are harsh.

We provide effective defense for our clients around Phoenix and Arizona at the Ybarra Maldonado Law Group. Our attorneys have handled a lot of high criminal defense cases in Arizona, and we can manage yours as well. As seasoned trial attorneys, we know how to put up a strong defense by gathering as much material as possible. Please contact our Phoenix office now at 602-910-4040 to discuss your charges. We provide free first case evaluations and intake forms online.

What Is Second Degree Murder in Arizona?

Murder accusations are extremely severe and entail some of the worst penalties in the criminal justice system. Your case’s outcome and repercussions will follow you for the rest of your life. As a result, it’s critical that you comprehend second-degree murder, as well as the distinctions between it and the other degrees of murder. This section delves into the details of what second-degree murder entails.

Second-degree murder is often not thought to be as severe as first-degree murder. If you are convicted, though, the consequences are still severe. If any of the following requirements are satisfied, second-degree murder is committed, according to ARS 13-1104.

  • Intentionally causing another person’s death
  • Doing an act that they knew would result in death or serious bodily harm and that resulted in the death of another person
  • While displaying a complete disregard for human life, recklessly engaging in acts that pose a considerable danger of death and ultimately result in an individual’s death

There must not have been any premeditation involved in any of the aforementioned murders. In Arizona, if a murder is premeditated, it is classed as first-degree murder.

How Is Second Degree Murder Different than First Degree Murder?

Murders in the first and second degrees differ significantly. It’s crucial to understand these distinctions since they affect the severity of your possible fines. The distinction between the two degrees, as well as the mandatory penalty for their charges, are explained in this section.

First Degree Murder

In Arizona, first degree murder occurs when the defendant satisfies the following conditions.

  • Someone has the intent to kill or is aware that their actions will result in death.
  • They cause the death of another person or persons as a result of their activities.
  • They planned the murder ahead of time.

Second Degree Murder

In Arizona, second degree murder occurs when the defendant satisfies the following conditions.

  • Someone causes the death of a person on purpose, but without premeditation.
  • A person acts in a way that exhibits a complete disregard for human life, or recklessly participates in behaviors that pose a considerable danger of death, resulting in the death of another person.

The main distinction between the two accusations is the defendant’s alleged premeditated behavior. In Arizona, the prosecutor must argue and establish premeditation in order to prosecute someone with first-degree murder. Premeditation can take place over a long or short amount of time, and it is an important part of defending your case. As we’ll see below, the penalties for these two crimes differ in a few ways.

How Is It Different from Manslaughter?

Many people mix the phrases “murder” and “manslaughter.” They are, nevertheless, distinct crimes with distinct characteristics and consequences. Manslaughter is defined or described in the following ways, according to ARS 13-1103.

  • Causing someone else’s death recklessly
  • Intentionally murdering someone else in a fit of rage, or in an encounter sparked by the victim’s justifiable provocation
  • Assisting another individual in committing suicide intentionally
  • Knowingly killing another individual while under duress or under fear of lethal force from a third party

Aside from the concept, manslaughter varies from murder in terms of the punishments that can be imposed. It is not treated as seriously as murder since it is classified as a Class 2 crime. The potential punishments for manslaughter in Arizona are discussed below.

  • A minimum term of 7 years in prison is required for a first conviction, with a presumption sentence of 10.5 years. A maximum penalty of 21 years in jail is possible.
  • The period of time rises if a person has previously been convicted of a serious offense. The maximum penalty is 28 years, with a minimum term of 14 years and a presumption sentence of 15.75 years.
  • The ranges grow considerably more if a person has two prior serious felony convictions. The required minimum penalty is 21 years in jail, with a presumptive sentence of 28 years and a maximum term of 35 years in prison.

How Is It Different from Negligent Homicide?

Negligent homicide is a type of involuntary manslaughter that is less serious than murder or manslaughter. You may be charged with negligent homicide if you accidentally cause the death of another person owing to criminal negligence.

Criminal negligence is defined as failing to act with reasonable caution or identify obvious risks linked with one’s actions. According to ARS 13-1102, negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony with a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 3.75 years for a first offense. Second crimes can carry a penalty of up to 7.5 years in prison. In either scenario, you will lose your firearm license and have a criminal record.

Examples of Second Degree Murder

  • Someone fires a gun into a room filled with people. Someone is shot and dies from the wound.
  • They fire a gun at another person with no intention of killing them, yet the other person dies as a result.
  • They violently punch a smaller, intoxicated individual who suffers a fatal brain injury as a result of the punch.

What Are the Penalties for Second Degree Murder?

Second-degree murder is, of course, a very terrible crime that is classified as a Class 1 felony in Arizona. As a result, you may anticipate the consequences to be as severe. A skilled Phoenix homicide attorney will place a high priority on removing the most serious punishments from the table as soon as possible.

  • Minimum 10 year prison sentence
  • Presumptive 16 year term
  • Maximum 25 year term

These sentences are also subject to the “day-to-day” requirement, which means they will not be released early due to “good conduct.”

Related Crimes and Their Penalties

There are three other crimes related to second degree murder in Arizona. We list these below.

Second Degree Vehicular Homicide

Vehicular homicide in the second degree is a more severe accusation than vehicular manslaughter. It is the second most prevalent form of vehicular homicide charge in Arizona, behind vehicular manslaughter. Under Arizona law, the prosecution must prove the following to bring second degree vehicular homicide charges.

  • Defendant caused another person’s death.
  • They engaged recklessly in actions that created an extreme risk of death.
  • They did so while exhibiting an extreme indifference to human life.

In order to be charged with second-degree vehicular homicide, you must also have acted in a manner that demonstrated severe disregard to human life. This is what distinguishes it from vehicular manslaughter.

Attempted Second Degree Murder

When someone has the desire to commit murder and takes steps to do so, they are charged with attempted second degree murder. However, the assailant ultimately fails to carry out the murder.

Only if the individual planned to or knowingly tried to cause the death of another may they be charged with attempted second degree murder. It is insufficient to prove that the individual meant to cause significant physical injury. It cannot also be charged if the person’s acts were just negligent. It requires the demonstration of an extreme disregard for human life.

Are There Defenses to a Second Degree Murder Charge?

When facing a charge as serious as second-degree murder, it is critical to employ the most effective defense approach available. The following are some of the most frequent and successful defenses.

Weak or Unreliable Evidence

This is a typical defense that may be used in virtually any situation. The police do not always conduct a thorough investigation and sometimes fail to follow up on crucial facts. They may use poor copy-and-paste techniques in their reports. Ballistics, DNA analysis, forensic toxicology, and crime-scene reconstruction specialists for the prosecution may have utilized incorrect methodologies. The prosecution’s witnesses may be biased or incorrect about what they observed.


You may use lethal physical force in self-defense only if you are defending yourself against the use, intended use, or threat of lethal physical force by another person. If a sensible person in your circumstances would have reasonably felt that imminent fatal bodily danger was there, then deadly physical force is justifiable. It is not required to have genuine risk.

Defense of Others

You may use lethal physical force to defend a third person against the use or threat of lethal physical force by another person. The use of deadly physical force is permissible, just as it is in self-defense, if a reasonable person in your circumstances would have reasonably concluded that imminent fatal bodily threat was present. Furthermore, the presence of genuine danger is not required.

Crime Prevention

You may use lethal physical violence against another person if you rationally think that it is critical to stop the other person from committing one of the crimes specified in A.R.S. 13-411. (A).

By Force or Coercion

If the use or possibility of imminent use of illegal lethal force against you or another person caused you to conduct reckless second degree murder (showed extreme disregard to human life and created a grave danger of death), you should be convicted of Manslaughter, not Second Degree Murder.

Heat of Passion or a Sudden Fight

If the murder was done in the heat of passion or as a result of the victim doing anything to you that would have caused a rational person to lose control, you should be charged with Manslaughter rather than Second Degree Murder.

Legal Use of Prescription Medication

Perhaps you committed the crime because you were temporarily inebriated from taking your legally authorized medicine as directed. If this is the case, your transitory inebriation kept you from having the necessary purpose or knowledge to conduct second-degree murder.

Guilty Except Insane

To establish a guilty except insane defense strategy, the defendant must show that he or she was suffering from a mental condition at the time of the killing that prohibited him or her from recognizing the right from the wrong. A person with schizophrenia, for example, may have killed another person during a paranoid delusional episode. As a result of the mental condition, this person would not have understood that the killing was wrong.

Consult a Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you or someone you know faces charges of second degree murder in Arizona, contact Ybarra Maldonado Law Group today. You’ll need a criminal defense lawyer who knows how to defend you from the terrible repercussions of such a crime. The homicide lawyers of Ybarra Maldonado Law Group are here to assist you. Call our Phoenix office today at 602-910-4040 or fill out our online intake form to submit a consultation request.

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