Arizona manslaughter laws

How Can Manslaughter Charges Be Ruled Self-Defense in Arizona?

In the state of Arizona, the law allows you to fight — and even in some instances kill, if warranted — in an effort to protect yourself, your family, or other loved ones. With that said, proving that how you used physical force in the act of self-defense is a great deal more complicated than most people realize against manslaughter charges.

Other states in the US have similar laws, such as the popular “stand your ground” laws that explain to residents that suggest that someone would be justified in threatening to use — or actually using — physical force against another person to a reasonable extent when the first person believes it to be immediately necessary for the purposes of protecting him or herself and/or others.

In the state of Arizona, and according to ARS 13-411, citizens have no duty to retreat before making any threats of physical violence in most instances if you are in a situation or a place where you have the legal right to be, and you have not engaged in any illegal acts.

When You Can Legally Use Force, Even Deadly Force

In fact, here in Arizona, there are a variety of situations in which the use of physical force are entirely justified, not just self-defense. Physical force may also be used in the state of Arizona in an effort to thwart certain crimes, as well as to come to the physical defense of a third-party whom you may or may not know. Furthermore, when a justification defense is something you plan to use, the prosecution bears the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant in question did not act in a justified manner.

The statutes that protect you and allow you to use self-defense, and even to commit manslaughter in Arizona when justified are as follows:

  1. Arizona Revised Statute Section 14-404: Justification: Self-Defense
  2. Arizona Revised Statute Section 13-405 Justification: Use of Deadly Physical Force

Threatening or using force in self-defense, including deadly force, is justified when a reasonable person could believe that that force was immediately necessary to stay safe (protect yourself) from another person’s use — or attempted use — of illegal physical force.

Self-defense is NOT justified when:

  • The other person has only made a verbal threat
  • If you are resisting arrest from a law enforcement officer
  • If an innocent third-party was injured or killed as a result of your recklessness
  • If you were the person who initiated the provocation of the other person’s use of force, except when you were the one who withdrew first and clearly stated your intent to withdraw AND the other person continued to then use illegal physical force.

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Shannon's Law illegally discharging a firearm in Arizona

Shannon’s Law & Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm in Arizona

Shannon’s Law is legislation that was passed in the state of Arizona that makes it illegal to discharge a firearm anywhere within the city limits of any city or town within the state of Arizona.

The law was passed in response to the 1999 gun-shooting tragedy that ended the life of Shannon Smith. As the story goes, Shannon Smith was casually walking around the back yard of her Central Phoenix home when suddenly, a bullet that had been fired into the air more than a mile away from her location struck her in the head and killed her.

Shannon Smith’s parents fought and won to create Shannon’s Law in a grassroots effort that included a veritable who’s who among Phoenix area prosecutors, politicians, area citizens, and law enforcement officials, among others, who wanted to see the legislative change that would restore peace in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, making it illegal to fire any type of gun or rifle into the air in an effort to avoid future tragedies such as the one that tragically took the life of Shannon Smith.

Known legally as Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 13-3107, enacted in 2000, Shannon’s Law makes it a felony for anyone, according to the law, “who, with criminal negligence discharges a firearm within or into the limits of any municipality” within the state of Arizona.

Not Every Discharge of a Firearm is a Felony in the State of Arizona

While it is true that Shannon’s Law makes it unlawful to discharge a firearm, it only does so when, according to the Shannon’s Law legislation, that person does so with criminal negligence, which may not always apply in every case. To prove this and obtain a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony charge, you may have to strike a plea bargain, but in the state of Arizona, these are relatively rare.

It’s important to understand that, because of the notoriety Shannon’s law received upon its passage, and because the law provides for mandatory sentencing, cases that fall under its purview are prosecuted with relative aggressiveness when compared to other, similar offenses within the state of Arizona, and especially within the Greater Phoenix Metro Area.

However, the important exceptions to Shannon’s Law that some people may not be aware of include shooting that occurs within supervised outdoor shooting ranges, areas where hunting is permitted, and select other designated areas in and around Phoenix and other parts of the state of Arizona.

Illegally discharging a firearm and understanding Shannon's Law in Phoenix
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