Phoenix Lawyer Handling Homicide Cases

Murder accusations are taken very seriously by Arizona prosecutors. There are several different categories of homicide. These include not only first-degree and second-degree murder, but also vehicular manslaughter and negligent homicide. It is critical to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you in connection with murder charges. Phoenix murder defense lawyer James E. Novak is a former prosecutor who uses insights gained in his prior work to vigorously defend those facing criminal charges.


First-degree murder is a class 1 felony in Arizona. Murder implies that a defendant killed another with intent or premeditation. First-degree murder is the most serious murder charge. It can be charged under three different circumstances. You can be charged if you intended to cause death or knowing your actions would cause death, you acted with premeditation to cause the death of another. You can also be charged if, as a result of killing someone else with premeditation, you caused the death of an unborn child. For example, you can be charged with first-degree murder if you plan to kill someone, go to his house with a gun, and shoot him in the heart.

You can also be charged with first-degree murder if you cause someone else’s death in perpetrating another crime. The other crime could include terrorism, a drive-by shooting, sexual assault, sexual conduct with a minor, narcotics crimes, child abuse, arson and burglary. For example, if you beat a small child until he died, you could be charged with first-degree murder and should promptly consult a murder defense attorney in the Phoenix area.

You can also be charged with first-degree murder if you intend or know that your conduct will cause the death of a law enforcement officer who is in the line of duty, and your actions cause the officer’s death.

If you are convicted of murder, you can be sentenced to life imprisonment or death. You may not be allowed parole.

Second-Degree Murder

Prosecutors will charge a defendant with second-degree murder when they believe you intentionally killed somebody but without premeditation. Like first-degree murder, it can be charged in several different circumstances. You could be charged with second-degree murder if you intentionally, but without premeditation, cause another’s death or due to intentionally causing another’s death, cause the death of an unborn child. You could also be charged if, knowing your actions would cause death or serious physical injury, you caused another’s death. You can also be charged if you caused the death of an unborn child as a result of knowingly causing another’s death. Second-degree murder charges can also be brought against you if, under circumstances that show extreme indifference to human life, you recklessly act in a way that generates a serious risk of death and thereby causes the death of another, including an unborn child.

The presumptive sentence for a second-degree murder conviction in Arizona is 16 years imprisonment. The maximum sentence is 25 years.

Plea Negotiations

In some cases, a Phoenix murder defense attorney may be able to negotiate a plea agreement involving lesser charges against you. Often this means that you would enter a guilty plea with regard to a specific charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence. For instance, a defendant may agree to plead guilty to manslaughter charges if the prosecutor dismisses the murder charges. Manslaughter is a class 2 felony and a first offense usually results in 4-10 years imprisonment.

In other circumstances, a defendant may plead guilty to negligent homicide charges in exchange for the dismissal of murder charges. Prosecutors may charge a person with negligent homicide charges if the defendant took a risk that grossly departed from what a reasonable person would have done under the circumstances. The potential sentence for a class 4 felony is 1.5 – 4 years imprisonment.


You may feel terrified to be charged with murder. To protect your legal rights, consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer about the available defenses that may be raised either in the course of plea negotiations or at trial. You may be able to raise doubt about one or more elements of the charge, thereby preventing the prosecution from meeting its burden of proof. Alternatively, you may be able to call into question the credibility of the witnesses for the prosecution.

One substantive defense to first-degree or second-degree murder is self-defense. When defendants assert this defense, they are arguing that deadly force was necessary to protect themselves against the decedent who was using deadly force against them. Alternatively, you may be able to show that your actions did not actually cause the death, but another factor was responsible, such as a medical condition or another person’s conduct.

Constitutional or procedural defenses may be available. For instance, defendants may be able to suppress key evidence that was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, thereby weakening or even gutting the prosecution’s case. Even a confession may be suppressed if the police coerced the defendant into making the confession or failed to read the defendant his or her Miranda rights before a custodial interrogation that resulted in the confession.

Speak with a Murder Defense Lawyer in Phoenix

If you are charged with murder, you should discuss your situation with seasoned criminal defense lawyer James E. Novak, who possesses years of experience representing people charged with murder and other crimes in Phoenix along with Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or complete our online form.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation
(840) 413-1499