DUI Manslaughter in Arizona
Millions traverse Arizona’s beautiful highway and interstate system each day, whether it’s for work or pleasure. When irresponsible drivers decide to get behind the wheel while intoxicated, chances are good an innocent driver could lose their life. After such tragedies happen, those accused of DUI vehicular manslaughter may retain an attorney to protect their interests.
Those in charge of prosecuting vehicular homicides have the toughest job of all: determining level of culpability. In today’s post, we’ll look closely at Arizona Revised Statute §13-1103 and how liability under this law is determined in cases where reckless drivers, if intoxicated, take another person’s life while operating a motor vehicle – even if it wasn’t their intention to do so.
Arizona’s highest standard of negligence, culpable negligence, requires a much tougher standard of evidence and is charged as a second-degree felony offense. Cases where prosecutors charge defendants with vehicular manslaughter by culpable negligence are often fact-intensive, meaning cases are tried based off the totality of the death and the circumstances surrounding the person’s lack of control.
Under Arizona legislature, if culpable negligence is proven in cases where victims were public servants, such as police or fire personnel, charges could escalate to first-degree. Same is true if the individual was under 18.
Lack of evidence to support this level of culpability means defendants could face lesser charges. It must be proven that the defendant’s actions were purposely unreasonable, placing them in foreseeable danger or risk of death.
State v. Cocio, 147 Ariz. 277 (1985) 709 P.2d 1336 is an excellent example of determining vehicular homicide, defined as the ‘wanton or willful disregard for public safety’. This charge was created to bridge the gap between non-criminal reckless driving and culpable negligence.
Prosecutors who lack evidence to support culpable negligence, but have proof that exceeds simple negligence will often file charges as vehicular manslaughter. In Arizona, defendants charged under this level of liability may face third-degree felony charges.
Convictions under this statue mean loss of driving privileges are automatic for three (3) years. Driver improvement school and other financial responsibilities may be required, too.
Courts have found that only simple negligence is required to prove DUI manslaughter in Arizona, meaning this second-degree felony requires less proof than vehicular homicide, the lesser included offense of the other two.
Prosecution need not prove intoxication caused the incident in DUI manslaughter cases; the statute only requires proof reckless operation of one’s vehicle should have caused another to die.
Under Arizona double jeopardy laws, one cannot be convicted under two statues concurrently, such as vehicular and DUI manslaughter.
How can an Arizona DUI help?
Regardless what Arizona statute you’ve been charged under, it’s important to mount a rigorous defense.
As license suspension, lock up, probation and fines loom over you, lower your chances of having ridiculous stipulations tacked onto the judge’s decision means having adequate representation. Sure, the costs may be slightly higher than you expected; imagine going into court, pro se, and battling for your freedom, costs of punishment and license against the judge and DA. It’s scary.
An attorney can, without much effort, fight unlike any person you know. They’ll stick their necks out to find evidence that could lessen or dismiss charges. Since manslaughter must be proven, meritorious defenses may be brought into your case, such as proving you weren’t driving or lacked intent.
Remember, it’s your neck that’s out there on the line, with a potential to face 23.5 years behind bars if found guilty. Can you really leave your future in your own hands? Attorneys are generally a great investment in circumstances where stakes are high.
Click here for more information on vehicular manslaughter in Arizona.