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What is first-degree murder and what are the penalties?

As was discussed in previous posts, there are a number of situations that might result in Maricopa County residents facing murder charges. The second installment of this two-part series will discuss the circumstances for which you might be charged with first-degree murder. Additionally, it will explain the penalties you could face if convicted of this offense.

Under Arizona state law, first-degree murder is defined as causing the death of another person, including an unborn child. Engaging in actions that you intend, or know, will cause someone else’s death may also constitute a first-degree murder charge. This offense differs from second-degree murder in that your actions must be premeditated. This means that you have planned to take the life of another person, or to engage in conduct that you know could result in another’s death.

You may also be charged with murder in the first degree if a death happens during the commission of certain felony offenses. Arizona state law stipulates that these offenses include the following:

  •          Child molestation
  •          Kidnapping
  •          Arson
  •          Sexual assault
  •          Robbery

If you are unlawfully fleeing from law enforcement, and as a result someone is killed, you may also be charged with first-degree murder in Arizona. This is also the case if you are accused of intentionally or knowingly participating in conduct that you know will cause the death of a law enforcement officer.

First-degree murder is considered a class 1 felony in the state of Arizona. As such, the penalties you might face if you are convicted of this offense are severe. You could be sentenced to death, or to life in prison. If you receive a life in prison sentence, you may be deemed ineligible for parole. In other cases, you may be granted parole eligibility after you have served 25 years.

This post has provided an overview of first-degree murder charges, and the potential penalties associated with this offense, in Arizona. While it may help you to understand the charges you could be facing, it should not be considered legal advice. 

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