In Arizona there are five levels of homicide. The highest is First Degree Murder with the notice to seek the death penalty; which is called Capital Murder. Capital Murder is when the prosecutor is not only looking to prove the standard first degree premeditated homicide elements but also has alleged aggravating factors which are qualified as heinous, cruel and depraved. For example, torture, mutilation of a body after its dead and fear of the victim before they died, just to name a few. Typically, they are situations that people normally only see on grotesque TV shows and SAW movies.
However, sometimes the state prosecutors allege a Capital Murder charge that is simply absurd. For example, we had a client who was charged with Capital Murder when an infant died in her care at a day care center. Our client professed her innocence from the beginning but despite that, she was facing death. Our work on the case ultimately showed that the infant died from medical implications and all charges were dismissed with prejudice.
Second Degree Murder is when somebody is reckless with their standard of conduct. An example of this would be when somebody takes a gun and decides to shoot a paper target, ignores the fact that behind the target is a school yard. This is an example of someone having a very reckless standard of care. Typically, these types of charges stem from reckless handling of a weapon, however, the state will sometimes charge people with Second Degree Murder for deaths resulting from a DUI collision.
Although that happens, DUI vehicular homicides are more appropriately charged at the next level down called Manslaughter. That is a negligent standard of care rather than a Second Degree Murder which is a reckless standard of conduct. Most of the time we can get Manslaughter reduced to the lowest level of homicide which is Negligent Homicide. Negligent Homicide is when someone caused the death of another. This is the lowest level of homicide and the penalty can be as little as probation with no jail.
Although some of these offenses are more serious than others, they all carry significant penalties. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to successfully defend the charges.