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How does Arizona law define first-degree murder?

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2021 | Violent Crimes |

As one of 27 states with a death penalty statute, Arizona takes a strong stand against murder, especially first-degree murder. If you find yourself convicted of this most serious type of homicide, FindLaw explains the penalties for this class 1 felony include life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years, life in prison without parole possibility, and death.

To convict you, the prosecutor must prove that you deliberately and unlawfully killed someone with malice aforethought and after premeditation.

Malice aforethought

Arizona law defines malice aforethought as any intent on your part to inflict serious bodily injury on your alleged victim or to cause his or her death.

Felony murder

You can also face first-degree murder charges under Arizona’s felony murder statute if your alleged victim dies during the commission of one of the following felonies that themselves carry penalties of life imprisonment or death:

  • Kidnapping
  • Child molestation
  • Sexual assault
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Unlawful flight from law enforcement officers

Keep in mind that the felony murder statute allows your prosecution if you participated in one of the above felonies in any way whatsoever. Nor does the prosecutor need to prove that you personally killed or intended to kill the alleged victim. If the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you participated in one of the prohibited felonies and someone died as a consequence thereof, such evidence provides a sufficient basis to convict you of felony murder.

Civil suit

Whether or not a jury convicts you of first-degree murder or felony murder, the family of the deceased may well bring a wrongful death suit against you. In this type of civil suit, the plaintiffs only need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you caused their loved one’s death.