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First- and Second-Degree Murder in Arizona

A charge of murder is serious and carries with it extreme criminal penalties. Whether the murder is first- or second-degree murder, the consequences will affect your life -- indeed, it could be the end of your life. Arizona has the death penalty and depending on the facts of the alleged murder, you could face life in prison or the death penalty.

If you or someone you love has been charged with murder, an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney can defend your case to protect your rights. Just because you are charged with a crime does not mean you are or will be found guilty of the crime.

First-Degree Murder in Arizona

First-degree murder is the most serious degree of murder in the state and is punished as a Class 1 felony. First-degree murder is written in the law at A.R.S. 13-1105. First-degree murder occurs when:

  • A person intends or knows that the person's conduct will cause death;
  • Does, in fact, cause another person's death; and
  • Committed the act with premeditation.

Premeditation can occur over a long or even short period of time. Challenging the premeditation element of the crime is essential to defending your case.

Felony Murder

Another way a person can be charged with first-degree murder is through what is known as the "felony murder rule." If a person kills another as the result of committing a specific crime listed under the statute, he or she can be guilty of first-degree murder. These crimes include:

  • Kidnapping,
  • Robbery,
  • Child Molestation,
  • Arson,
  • Sexual Assault, or
  • Escaping or Fleeing from Law Enforcement.

Many of these offenses only apply to felony murder when it occurs under specific circumstances. You should consult with an Arizona criminal defense attorney to understand and defend against your charges.


There are only three penalties, and they are listed here in order of severity:

  • Life in prison with no possibility of release until 25 years of "day-for-day" prison time has been served (if the date of murder occurred prior to August 2, 2012);
  • Life in prison without the possibility of parole; or
  • Death.

Getting the death penalty off the table is one of the most important parts of your criminal defense, and an experienced attorney can help.

Second-Degree Murder

While less serious than first-degree murder, second-degree murder still carries heavy criminal penalties. Second-degree murder is written in Arizona law at A.R.S. 13-1104. Second-degree murder occurs when:

  • A person intentionally or knowingly kills another person without premeditation, or
  • A person engages in conduct manifesting extreme indifference to human life or recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person.

Second-degree murder occurs without premeditation, meaning that no prior planning is needed to commit the act.


If convicted of second-degree murder, you face the following penalties:

  • Minimum of 10 years in prison;
  • A presumptive prison term of 16 years; or
  • Maximum of 22 years in prison.

These numbers are for "day-to-day" prison time, meaning there will be no early release or time off for "good behavior."

Consult a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for first- or second-degree murder, your freedom and your life are at risk. An experienced attorney at The Hamp Law Offices can represent you in your defense to protect your constitutional rights.

We serve clients in Mohave, Yavapai, La Paz, and Coconino Counties, including the communities of Kingman, Bullhead City, Lake Havasu, Parker, Prescott, Williams, and Flagstaff, Arizona. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Contact Us Today

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, you may be feeling frightened, anxious, and uncertain of what your future holds. The competent and experienced attorneys at the Hamp Law Offices can help you during this difficult time. We are dedicated to fighting for the rights of our clients and providing excellent legal representation to those who have been accused of a crime. Contact our firm today to discuss your case.