An unexpected accident or an unintentional mistake could affect your life forever. A 2nd-degree murder is a severe offense under Arizona law. If you or your loved one is convicted of the crime, the state will do everything in its power to enhance a conviction. The possible consequences of 2nd-degree murder are imprisonment and hefty fines. You must have adequate evidence and a convincing legal defense to fight 2nd-degree murder charges successfully. If you or your loved one faces 2nd-degree murder charges, the Phoenix Criminal Attorney can help you create a convincing defense to fight the charges.
The Definition Of 2nd Degree Murder
The Arizona law A.R.S. § 13-1104 defines the crime of second–degree murder. The prosecutor must prove several elements of the crime for you to be convicted. The prosecutor has to prove that:
- You knowingly or intentionally killed another person without premeditation
- Without premeditation, you knew that your actions would cause a severe physical injury or death of another person
- You engaged in reckless actions that showed extreme disregard or indifference to human life or posed a severe risk of death of another person
The first element of killing another person may be fulfilled if you kill another person in the heat of anger or rage. For example, you may be driving, and another driver cuts you off. In anger, you drive up to the vehicle, take out your gun and shoot the driver, killing him instantly. You may face 2nd-degree murder charges because you had not made a plan to kill the driver. However, you acted with the understanding that your actions would kill the other person.
The second element of knowingly causing a severe injury to another person is fulfilled if you inflict a severe injury on another person and the person succumbs to the injury. For example, without premeditation, you may aim and shoot a gun at a person in the leg, then he or she dies because of the injuries. You may face 2nd-degree murder charges. Even if you didn’t intend to kill the victim by shooting them in the leg, you knew that the act of shooting another person would inflict serious injuries, and in this case, the person died from the sustained injuries.
How can a person portray a reckless indifference to human life? A good example would be shooting a gun aimlessly in a crowded place resulting in another person’s death. Shooting aimlessly is extreme conduct that shows that you have a reckless disregard for human life.
If you face 2nd-degree murder charges, you are up to the challenge of creating a convincing defense. The initial step towards creating a defense for 2nd-degree murder charges is understanding the crime and the applicable legal defenses.
2nd Degree Murder Versus First Degree Murder
The main difference between first-degree murder and 2nd-degree murder is that 2nd-degree murder does not involve premeditation. While accusing you of 2nd-degree murder, the law does not require the prosecutor to show that you thought or planned about killing the person in any way. In a first-degree murder, the defendant plans or premeditates the killing. In the case of killing another person in a road rage incident, you had not planned to kill, but you did so due to anger. You may face first-degree murder charges if you decide to follow the driver that cut you off into the grocery store, wait in the parking for the driver to finish shopping, and then shoot him when coming out of the grocery store. In this case, the prosecutor can prove beyond doubt that you took time to plan and premeditate the killing. This planning or premeditation will increase your charges to first-degree murder.
Difference Between 2nd Degree Murder And Manslaughter
What is the distinguishing factor between 2nd-degree murder and manslaughter under Arizona law? There are two main differences between 2nd-degree murder and manslaughter:
- The level of blame
- Sudden quarrel or acting in the heat of passion
A higher level of blame applies in the way the defendant was thinking while committing 2nd-degree murder. This is what Arizona law refers to as a more culpable mental state. Both the crime of 2nd-degree murder and manslaughter entails reckless behavior that leads to death. However, in a 2nd-degree, the charge extends beyond reckless behavior in manslaughter charges.
While committing the crime of 2nd-degree murder, there is an extreme disregard for human life. This is not present in a manslaughter crime. While committing 2nd-degree murder, the victim’s actions create a grave risk of death. For example, shooting a gun in a crowded place portrays an extreme disregard or indifference to human life.
If you kill another person knowingly or intentionally, but you did so due to a sudden quarrel and being in the heat of passion, you will face manslaughter and not 2nd-degree murder charges. For example, a person may come home only to find their spouse cheating on them. In the heat of passion, the person takes a gun out of the nightstand and kills the spouse. In this case, the defendant will face manslaughter and not 2nd-degree murder charges. This is because the defendant acted in the heat of passion.
A 2nd Degree Vehicular Homicide
Many 2nd-degree murder cases in Arizona are 2nd-degree vehicular homicide charges. A driver may face 2nd-degree murder charges if he or she operates a bus while intoxicated. Due to intoxication, he or she crashes the vehicle and kills several people. The driver will face 2nd-degree murder charges because he or she did not plan or premeditate to crash the bus and kill the occupants.
The Penalties For Second–Degree Murder
Under Arizona law, the crime of 2nd-degree murder is a class 1 felony. The potential penalties for a conviction include minimum imprisonment of 10 years and maximum imprisonment of 25 years. Arizona law refers to this form of sentencing as calendar years, implying that the sentencing is flat, and the defendant will not be eligible for parole. After sentencing for 2nd-degree murder, the defendant will not be eligible for any form of release or parole from prison until he or she completes the prison term. If you search many online sources, you will find that the sentencing for 2nd-degree murder in Arizona is 22 years in prison. The Arizona law amended the sentence from 22 years up to 25 years in 2012. Instead of relying on online information that is often outdated, it is advisable to contact an experienced criminal attorney.
Definition Of Attempted 2nd Degree Murder
You may face attempted 2nd-degree murder charges if you have the intention to commit murder, you take action to commit murder, but you fail to execute the crime. You can only face 2nd-degree murder charges if you intended or knowingly tried to cause another person’s death. It is not enough for the prosecutor to prove that you intended to cause serious physical harm to another person. You can't face attempted 2nd-degree murder charges if your actions were just reckless. Your actions must have portrayed an extreme indifference or disregard for human life.
What are the penalties for attempted 2nd-degree murder? Unlike the actual crime of 2nd-degree murder, which is a class 1 felony, the crime of attempted 2nd-degree murder is a class 2 felony. The punishment for an attempted 2nd-degree murder includes minimum imprisonment of 7 years and maximum imprisonment of 21 years.
How To Fight 2nd Degree Murder Charges
When you face charges for a serious crime like 2nd-degree murder, you must seek the legal counsel of a competent attorney. An attorney will identify the best defense strategy to help you fight the charges. Some of the typical and effective legal defenses for 2nd-degree murder charge are:
You Were Acting In Self-defense
You can fight 2nd-degree murder charges by pointing out that even if you used deadly force and caused the other person’s death, you only did so in self-defense. You can point out that you or another person was in danger of suffering great bodily harm. This defense is only applicable if a reasonable individual in a similar situation would have believed there was an immediate danger. For you to use this defense, you do not have to prove that actual danger was present.
The law allows you to use relative force in defending yourself or another person. The judge may acquit you if you acted in self–defense, but you ended up killing another person. For you to use a self-defense strategy, it should be evident that you used reasonable force. It should also be apparent that you believed that you or another person was in grave danger.
The Victim Provoked You
You could incorporate this defense in your case if you were forced to act out of provocation as long as you have ample evidence to support this evidence. If you can prove that the victim was responsible for invoking anger in you, you can use this defense. A victim may invoke anger in you through several activities like making offensive jokes or daring you to engage in certain activities.
The defense of provocation can only apply if you acted in the heat of the moment. This defense will not apply if you take some time to cool off, and you return to harm the victim. If you acted in retaliation and used more force than necessary, the judge may reject this defense. This defense may not lead to an acquittal; however, it will serve as a mitigating factor that could reduce your sentence.
If the prosecutor's evidence against you is weak, you can use it as a defense to fight your charges. The arresting officers do not always carry out a proper investigation. Most of the time, police neglect to follow up on crucial information. The experts that the prosecutors hire in the areas of D.N.A. analysis, ballistics, forensic toxicology, or crime scene investigations and reconstruction may involve faulty methods. The prosecutor’s witnesses might be biased or confused about what they saw. The law requires the prosecutor to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you committed the said offense. If the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to prove his or her allegations against you, you can use it as a means of fighting your 2nd-degree murder charges.
You Were Preventing The Commission Of a Crime
You can use this defense if you used force and killed another person to prevent him or her from committing a crime. You have to prove that you believed that deadly force was crucial to prevent the victim from committing the crime. You should have used force to prevent the person from committing any of the following offenses:
- Burglary of the first or 2nd-degree
- Arson of an inhabited structure
- First-degree murder
- 2nd-degree murder
- Child molestation
- Armed robbery
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated assault
You Were Forced To Commit The Crime
You could use this defense if another person forced you to commit the crime of 2nd-degree murder. Another person may have forced you to show extreme indifference or disregard to human life and pose a high risk of death. If you prove beyond doubt that another person forced or coerced you to commit the offense, the judge may convict you of a lesser crime like manslaughter instead of 2nd-degree murder.
You Acted In The Heat Of Passion Or Sudden Quarrel
You can point out that you committed the crime in the heat of passion. To use this defense, it should be evident that the victim did something that would make a reasonable individual lose control. If you prove that you acted in the heat of passion, the judge may charge you with a lesser crime of manslaughter instead of 2nd-degree murder.
The Effects Of Prescribed Medicine
You may have committed the crime due to a temporary intoxication resulting from a non-abusive use of prescribed medicine. In this case, you can point out that the temporary intoxication hindered you from having the necessary knowledge and intent to carry out the offense of 2nd-degree murder. It should be evident that you committed the crime due to the effects of the medication. It is important to note that you cannot use this defense if you were intoxicated due to voluntary use of:
- Prescription medication in a way that doesn’t comply with the prescription
- Consumption of prescription medication that was not prescribed or meant for you
- Use of illegal drugs
- Consumption of alcohol
You Suffered From A Mental Illness
This defense is commonly referred to as guilty except insane. You can use this defense if, at the time you committed the 2nd-degree murder, you suffered a mental sickness that prevented you from determining a right or wrong thing. This means that at the time you committed the crime, it was highly likely that you were insane.
Why You Require a Criminal Attorney
When the prosecutor charges you with 2nd-degree murder, you might feel like it is a death sentence. However, it does not have to be. With the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can create adequate, reasonable doubt in your case to warrant a not-guilty defense.
Prosecutors put in many resources in prosecuting murder cases. You should not attempt to face the prosecutor on your own. Every case is unique. A criminal defense attorney takes a different approach for every case to ensure that he or she will have the best results. No one should have to face a difficult conviction of 2nd-degree murder alone. The complex paperwork, procedures, and trials will only add to your anxiety. An attorney will help create a strong defense and protect your legal rights.
Upon contacting an attorney, the attorney will look into every aspect and examine every aspect of your case. Below are some of the advantages of hiring a criminal defense attorney:
- Attorneys are experts in defending the accused — An attorney understands all the aspects of criminal law and court procedures. An attorney is capable of representing you legally and examining the evidence that the prosecutor brings against you.
- An attorney designs a strong defense strategy — Every criminal case is different and requires a different defense strategy. A criminal defense attorney will negotiate favorable terms for you. An attorney has all the necessary knowledge and skills to create a strong defense.
- Extensive experience in the legal system — An attorney has probably handled numerous cases in the past, similar to yours. An attorney will do everything in their power to protect you during the sentencing. You have a better chance of winning a case when you work through an attorney.
- An attorney has an existing relationship with the judges and other players in the legal system. A local attorney understands how the local courts work and is better placed to fight for you.
Find A Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Serious consequences accompany the crime of 2nd-degree murder. If the prosecutor accuses you of this crime, you need an experienced attorney with the right expertise to protect you from the severe consequences of the crime. Phoenix Criminal Attorney can help you create a convincing defense to fight the charges. Contact us at 602-551-8092 and speak to one of our attorneys.