What is Manslaughter and What are the Potential Defenses?
How prosecutors will approach manslaughter depends on one element: intent. With manslaughter, it was an individual’s intention to take another’s life, but unlike murder, the individual accused of killing another lacked premeditation.
We dive into Arizona’s manslaughter statutes and what potential defenses will be used to help eliminate, or lessen, the charges against you.
Arizona manslaughter statute
According to statute, manslaughter can be charged when an individual is killed during a sudden quarrel or heat of passion without malice. It lacks an element of premeditation since one didn’t have time to plan another’s death; it just happened. If the killing took place while operating a vehicle or piece of machinery, it would be construed as vehicular manslaughter if one specifically used such to aid in the killing of another.
If an individual found out another’s sexual orientation, gender or gender expression, and based the manslaughter off such, it could potentially become murder unless one can prove provocation and had no knowledge of such.
Malice, or an obvious hatred toward the victim, is usually when manslaughter becomes murder or homicide. Events leading up to the death of another are also taken into account prior to charging someone with either. Manslaughter laws in Arizona are complex, requiring an attorney to help defendants accurately navigate.
Lacking malice and planning, prosecutors are forced to charge persons with manslaughter, then prove an individual sought to end the life of another. If they cannot, it again gets lowered to in manslaughter, the lowest possible felony murder charge.
If the state successfully convicts persons of manslaughter, sentences range between 3-11 years in ADC along with fines, restitution (if applicable) and possible probation.
Click here for more information on assault and violent crimes in Arizona.
Defenses to manslaughter
Manslaughter attorneys have numerous defenses they can raise if their clients stand accused. Some may include:
- Individual acted in self-defense after being provoked or struck first;
- Defendant believed deadly force would neutralize the threat and prevent their own death (imperfect self-defense);
- Lack of mental acumen or insanity, or proven case of PTSD;
- Defendant was involuntarily intoxicated;
- Victim was not dead after the altercation ended, but later succumbed to their injuries.
Charges may be dismissed if any part, or all, of an investigation was improperly conducted. Moreover, during the heat of passion, prosecutors must prove that you went into an altercation planning on doing nothing less than killing an individual through provocation. Many times, this is difficult when the only two people to corroborate the events were the people involved, of which one is deceased.
How manslaughter differs from negligent homicide
By law, manslaughter is a recklessness standard requiring evidence of gross deviation from a standard of conduct, whereas the negligence standard involves the gross deviation from a standard of care. In layman’s terms, manslaughter is a reckless killing of another without virtue; negligent homicide is the willful act of terminating the life of another without respect for their safety.
Both are felonious crimes in Arizona, yet the level of that felony will deviate based on the standard the prosecutor is able to prove beyond doubt. Termination of human life is bad regardless of how it’s defined, yet defendants are presumed innocent all the same.
If you’re charged, take it seriously.
Prosecutors want individuals with malicious intent off Arizona streets. Defense attorneys want enough evidence presented to prove their client is guilty as charged. A huge tug-of-war match will ensue, with either prosecution dropping their case, or lowering charges dramatically based off availability of proof.
A superior manslaughter attorney knows the value of evidence, or the lack thereof, and will do anything possible to get their client off the hook. That’s why it’s important to never ‘talk too much’ or self-incriminate when dealing with investigators.