Murder Attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona

Crime and murder are on the rise in many of the nation’s cities, and Phoenix seems to be tracking the nationwide trend. In 2020, the city witnessed the highest homicide rate in 10 years, and in 2021, the statistics ran even higher, with 137 homicides through the first eight months of the year, according to the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA).

Pundits and analysts might disagree on the cause of the rise in crime and murders nationwide, but homicide in Arizona is treated very seriously. A first-degree murder conviction can result in a life sentence—or even a death sentence.

If you’re facing a murder charge in or around Phoenix, you should contact Faussette & Faussette PLLC. As criminal defense attorneys, we will listen to your story, investigate the charges, assess your options, and develop a customized defense strategy to seek the best available result for you.

We are proud to serve clients throughout the Valley and its surrounding cities and across the entire state of Arizona, including Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, and Goodyear.

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Arizona Murder Statutes

In Arizona, murder is treated as either a first-degree or second-degree felony, the difference being that first-degree murder requires premeditation. The crime of manslaughter also involves the taking of another’s life.

First-degree murder can be charged if, under Arizona law, a person “[i]ntending or knowing that the person’s conduct will cause death, the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn child, with premeditation.”

Premeditation is defined as follows: "the defendant acts with either the intention or the knowledge that he will kill another human being, when such intention or knowledge precedes the killing by any length of time to permit reflection. Proof of actual reflection is not required, but an act is not done with premeditation if it is the instant effect of a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.”

The statute also lists the taking of a human life while committing a felony as first-degree murder. The felonies are numerous, but include kidnapping, drive-by shootings, dangerous drug offenses, burglary, robbery, child abuse, and unlawful flight from a law enforcement vehicle. Killing a law enforcement officer in the line of duty is also first-degree murder.

Second-degree murder does not require premeditation but is committed knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly.

  • “Knowingly” means that a person is aware that their actions could result in the death of someone else

  • “Intentionally” means that a person acts with the objective of killing another person.

  • “Recklessly” means that a person engages in an act although they are aware that it creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk of serious harm or death.

Examples include driving a car over 100 mph and killing a pedestrian (recklessly), shooting someone in the chest with the intent to kill (intentionally), and stabbing a pregnant woman, resulting in the death of her and her unborn child (knowingly).

The crime of manslaughter also involves the taking of another’s life, but in broad terms, the act is neither premeditated nor intentional. For instance, the act may result from provocation or occur in the heat of passion. A barroom brawl or a lovers’ spat over infidelity might be examples.

Penalties for Murder & Manslaughter

First-degree murder can result in life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, or even in a death sentence. Second-degree murder is more likely to result in a prison term of 10 to 25 years. A manslaughter conviction can range from 3 to 12.5 years in prison.

For both second-degree murder and manslaughter, fines and probation can also be possible penalties. For second offenses, penalties will increase.

Possible Defenses

For first-degree murder, three possible defenses might include:

  • The act was done in self-defense

  • There was no premeditation or intention to kill

  • Police obtained a coerced confession

For second-degree murder, the same defenses are available except that premeditation is not a prerequisite. The defense can argue there was no intention.

For manslaughter, you can argue that your actions were merely negligent and not reckless, thereby reducing the charge to negligent homicide, which carries a lighter prison term.

As with any criminal charge, the prosecution must prove you’re guilty of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Therefore, your defense can challenge all evidence and the testimony of witnesses, and can also examine police and prosecutorial tactics to see if your rights were violated.

Murder Attorneys
in Phoenix, Arizona

Don’t trust your fate to the hands of a public defender, no matter how well trained or well-intentioned they may be. Public defenders generally face huge caseloads and have little time to prepare a solid defense and will often opt for the first plea deal. You can do better. Here at Faussette & Faussette PLLC, we will listen to your story, get the facts straight, and represent you through every phase of the criminal charging process—preliminary hearings, during initial and preliminary pretrial conferences, and throughout any plea negotiations, settlement conferences, trials, or sentencing hearings. We proudly serve clients throughout the greater Phoenix area. Call today to set up a consultation.