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Murder and Homicide Lawyer in Bentonville Arkansas
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Murder and Homicide Defense

Not all murder/homicide charges are the same and it is important for you to understand the definition of your charge.  In Arkansas there are six categories of criminal homicide. When you’ve been accused of murder or homicide, your whole world turns upside down.  Below are the differences between murder and homicide charges and what’s at stake if you’re found guilty of each of the different degrees.  Murder and homicide investigations require a lot of work and a lot of experience.  Don’t leave your future in the hands of an amateur.  Schedule a FREE Consultation with Stuart Cearley today to learn your options.

What is the Difference Between Murder and Homicide?

Murder and homicide are often mistakenly used interchangeably, but this notion is categorically incorrect, being that the two carry different definitions.  The most fundamental difference is that homicide refers to the broad act of killing a human being, while the act of murder includes a specific intent to kill another human being.  Homicide is used as a legal term used to define the classification of murder. If there is a predetermined intent to kill prior to the murderous action, then it is classified as murder, however for a homicide charge to be present the intentions were not predetermined or manipulated.

There are 6 different types of murder / homicides in the state of Arkansas; these include first-degree murder, second-degree murder, capital murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, and physician assisted suicide. 

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Murder in the First Degree

In Arkansas, first-degree murder may be classified as either capital murder or as murder in the first degree, depending on the circumstances surrounding the killing. The homicide must have occurred when a person or persons attempted or committed a felony that act or the flight from the felony causes the death of any person which demonstrates extreme indifference of life. Also, if the person with the purpose of committing the murder causes the death of another person, or the death of a 14-year-old or younger knowingly, they can be charged with First Degree Murder.


Murder in the first degree is considered a Class Y felony and can result in a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.  

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Murder in the Second Degree

Second degree murder occurs when a person knowingly causes the death of a person.  The death of the victim must have occurred with the perpetrator demonstrating extreme indifference to the value of human life. The death generally is unplanned, and the perpetrator should have known that their actions could lead to the victim’s death.  For example, getting into an unexpected fight which was especially violent which leads to the killing of an individual can result in second degree murder charges.

Murder in the second degree is considered a Class A felony and is punishable by fine of up to $15,000 and imprisonment for up to 30 years.

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One can be charged with Manslaughter when a killing is accidental, and the actions of the perpetrator would not normally be considered lethal.  Causing or aiding a person to commit suicide, and recklessly causing the death of another person can result in manslaughter charges, as can a death during the attempt or flight of a felony. If a death occurs due to negligence while resisting arrest, manslaughter charges could be sought.

Manslaughter is considered a Class C felony and is punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 10 years. 

Don't see an answer to your question? See our frequently asked questions for more.

Capital Murder

A Capital Murder charge is the most serious type of homicide charge in Arkansas. The crime could have been committed while acting alone or with one or more persons while attempting a terroristic act, aggravated robbery, rape, kidnapping, residential or commercial burglary, or during a felony under the Uniform Controlled Substance Act. If during first-degree escape or during the flight from one of the above felonies, you or your accomplices cause the death of an individual the charge of Capital Murder can be rendered.

Other actions which could bring capital murder charges include a death during the act of arson, the hiring, being hired or agreeing to kill a person for something of value, or knowingly causing the death of a 14-year-old or younger.  If the perpetrator demonstrated an extreme indifference to life while purposely firing a gun from a vehicle at a person, at a vehicle, conveyance or building that is knowingly occupied by a person, capital murder charges could also be brought.  If the premeditated death of a law enforcement officer, jailer, prison official, firefighter, probation officer, parole officer, military personnel, a teacher or school employee, a judge or other court official occurs, it falls under this category as well. This crime can be punishable by execution or life imprisonment without parole under certain circumstances for adults over 18 years of age.  If the perpetrator is under 18 years of age, the punishment is a life term with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum of 30 years in jail.

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Negligent Homicide

Negligent Homicide is also known as vehicular homicide occurs when a person negligently causes the death of another person as a result of operating a vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft while intoxicated, while passing a stopped school bus, or while fatigued while having been without sleep for 24 consecutive hours.  

Negligent Homicide is considered a Class B felony and is punishable by fine of up to $15,000 and imprisonment sentence of up to 20 years. 

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Physician-Assisted Suicide

Physician Assisted Suicide, also known as Euthanasia, is legal in a few states though it is illegal in Arkansas. This occurs when a physician or healthcare provider knowingly prescribes any drug, compound, or substance for the purpose of assisting a patient to intentionally end the patient’s life.  This does not apply to a person participating in the legal execution of a person sentenced by court to a death of legal injection. Any physician who performs a medical procedure for the sole purpose of helping a patient to intentionally end their life can be charged with this crime.

Physician-assisted suicide is considered a Class B felony and is punishable by fine of up to $15,000 and imprisonment sentence of up to 20 years. 

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Encouraging the Suicide of Another Person

If a person has encouraged, persuaded, incited or urged another person to commit suicide by using language, written or spoken, or if the person who attempts suicide is seriously injured during the attempt in which they were encouraged, the encourager can be charged with this crime. 


This is a Class D felony.

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