The Difference Between First And Second Degree Murders

difference between first degree and second degree murders

The Difference Between First And Second Degree Murders

difference between first degree and second degree murdersFirst-degree murder, second-degree murder, negligent homicide, and manslaughter are the four types of homicide that a person can be charged within the state of Arizona.


Under Arizona law, first-degree murder is defined as the intentional and premeditated taking of a life. You can also be charged with first-degree murder if death occurs in the following circumstances:

  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Child molestation
  • Robbery
  • Sexual Assault

You may also be given a first-degree murder charge if you are fleeing from police officers, and death occurs. This is also true for knowingly participating in an activity that causes the death of a police officer.


First-degree murder is a class 1 felony. The consequences are severe; there is not any way of sugar-coating this. You could be sentenced to spending the rest of your natural life in prison with or without the chance of parole after 25 years served.

Worst case scenario, you will receive the death sentence.


Under Arizona law, second-degree murder is defined as intentionally causing death without premeditation. If you are tried and convicted of second-degree murder, it means that you were found guilty of knowingly partaking in actions that could have caused death.

Click here for an article on Arizona second degree murder law.


Second-degree murder is a class 1 felony, and it can have life-changing consequences. Depending on prior convictions, the minimum sentence is 10 years in prison. If charged and given the maximum sentence, you could spend 25 years in prison.


Under Arizona law, manslaughter leaves a lot open for interpretation. The main reason that manslaughter may be charged is if a reckless act causes death unintentionally if a second-degree murder is found to be a “crime of passion,” it is downgraded to manslaughter and assisted suicide is considered manslaughter regardless of medical training.


Manslaughter is a class 2 felony in Arizona. There are different factors that will play into the final sentencing of a manslaughter conviction like prior convictions and the events leading up to the charge. The use of a weapon can largely contribute to a harsher sentence.

  • A mitigated sentence can be up to 3 years incarcerated.
  • The minimum sentence is 4 years incarcerated.
  • A presumptive sentence is 5 years incarcerated.
  • The maximum sentence (if no other circumstances) is 10 years incarcerated.
  • An aggravated sentence is 12.5 years incarcerated.
  • Should the circumstances prove to be of a dangerous offense or prior convictions are present, the aggravated sentence can go well over the 12.5 years of incarceration.


Negligent homicide by definition in the state of Arizona is criminal negligence that causes the death of another person, including an unborn child. This is also referred to as involuntary manslaughter.


Negligent homicide is a class 4 felony in Arizona. If it is your first offense, with no other extenuating circumstances, you face a minimum incarceration period of 1 year with a maximum of 3.75 years. A second offense could find you incarcerated for 7.5 years.

In both scenarios, you will lose your right to carry a firearm, and you will have a criminal record.