ARS 13-1102 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of negligent homicide. People commit this offense if they cause the death of another person (including the death of an unborn child) by means of a criminally negligent act. A violation of this law is a Class 4 felony that is typically punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years.
The language of ARS 13-1102 states that: “A person commits negligent homicide if with criminal negligence the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn child.”
- shooting someone in the head after recklessly handling a gun.
- killing a child after locking them in a hot car.
- negligently causing a fire that kills another person.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to defend against negligent homicide charges. Some of these include showing that:
- the accused did not act with criminal negligence,
- the defendant’s act did not cause someone’s death, and/or
- the police violated the defendant’s rights.
A conviction in a negligent homicide case results in a Class 4 felony (as opposed to an Arizona misdemeanor). The negligent homicide sentence is generally custody in state prison for up to three years.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “negligent homicide”?
Defendants are guilty of negligent homicide in the State of Arizona when:
- they cause the death of another person (including an unborn child), and
- they do so with criminal negligence.[i]
“Criminal negligence” is when a person fails to recognize the substantial and unjustifiable risk that his/her conduct will cause the death of another person.[ii]
Arizona law assumes that a reasonable person would have recognized such a risk and not have engaged in the criminally negligent act.[iii]
Note that the use of a gun, use of a dangerous instrument, or any other deadly weapon is not an element of negligence.[iv]
A criminally negligent act is distinct from reckless behavior. “Recklessness,” per Arizona criminal law, is when a person is aware of, but consciously disregards, a substantial and unjustifiable risk that an act will cause some harm. The risk must be of such a nature that the disregard of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care of a reasonable person.[v]
Sometimes people commit this criminal offense while driving a vehicle. For example, they can cause the death of another person while driving under the influence (DUI). When this occurs, the crime is often referred to as vehicular negligent homicide.
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-1102 charges?
Yes. Defendants can challenge criminal charges under Arizona’s homicide laws with a legal defense/disclaimer. Three common defenses include accused persons showing that:
- they did not act with criminal negligence.
- their acts were not the cause of the “victim’s” death.
- the police violated their rights.
2.1 No criminal negligence
People are only guilty under ARS 13-1102 if they acted with criminal negligence. A defense, then, is for an accused to show that his/her actions did not rise to this level of behavior.
2.2 Lack of Causation
An accused can defend against a negligent homicide charge by showing that his/her criminal negligence was not the proximate cause of the “victim’s” death. This defense requires a showing that some other act or person caused the homicide.
2.3 Police violated the accused’s rights
Defendants can always raise the defense that the police violated their rights. Violations occur if the police:
- do not read the accused his/her Miranda rights,
- do not follow police procedures,
- coerce a confession, or
- obtain evidence through an illegal search and seizure in violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights.
3. What are the penalties?
Negligent homicide is both a serious crime and a dangerous offense.
A violation of the law is a Class 4 felony. The offense is usually punishable by:
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to negligent homicide. These are:
- manslaughter – ARS 13-1103
- second-degree murder – ARS 13-1104, and
- vehicular manslaughter – ARS 13-1103.
4.1 Manslaughter – ARS 13-1103
Per ARS 13-1103, a person commits manslaughter by:
- recklessly causing the death of another person,
- committing second-degree murder upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion,
- intentionally providing another person with the physical means to commit suicide, or
- committing second-degree murder while being coerced to do so by the use of unlawful deadly force.
Manslaughter is a more severe crime than negligent homicide and results in Class 2 felony charges.
4.2 Second-degree murder – ARS 13-1104
Under ARS 13-1104, a person commits second-degree murder by:
- intentionally causing the death of another person, including an unborn child,
- committing an act knowing that it will cause death or serious physical injury, or
- recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person.
Unlike negligent homicide, a person is guilty under this statute if he/she intentionally or knowingly kills another person.
4.3 Vehicular manslaughter – ARS 13-1103
Arizona charges the crime of vehicular manslaughter under ARS 13-1103. A person commits this offense if:
- he/she recklessly drives a vehicle, and
- causes the death of another person while doing so.
As stated above, reckless behavior is more severe, or creates a larger degree of risk, when compared to a criminally negligent act.
For additional help…
If you or a loved one is facing a negligent homicide charge, we invite you to contact our law office/law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both a free initial consultation and legal advice you can trust.
[i] A.R.S. 13-1102.
[iii] See same.
[vi] ARS 13-801.