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Vehicular Homicide in Arizona

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Consequences for a DUI conviction in Arizona are extremely severe in comparison to other states. The state of Arizona takes the offense very seriously, especially when others are injured because of the impaired driver's actions. While many states have laws that directly address fatal drunk driving accidents, Arizona has yet to pass legislation to specific to vehicular homicide. The legal term vehicular homicide is exclusive to human deaths by the use of an automobile as the deadly weapon. There are only three states that do not include the actual term in their penal legislation: Alaska, Montana and Arizona.

The absence of statutes specific to vehicular homicide does not mean that there are no punishments available for drunk drivers whose actions lead to the death of another person. On the contrary, punishments for the crime are extremely harsh in Arizona through other statutes, which is why it is impertinent to consult a Phoenix DUI attorney if you were arrested after a fatal DUI accident. If someone is arrested in Phoenix for DUI after a fatal accident involving another driver or passenger, they will be tried not only for driving under the influence but for homicide in general. There are three possible convictions under homicide statutes that are often used in fatal DUI accidents and each of then require incarceration: negligent homicide, manslaughter and second degree murder. Keep in mind that the penalties concerning the actual death of another human being are in addition to the actual offense of driving under the influence. This means that, if convicted, sentences pertinent to the BAC level recorded at the time are separate from the sentence for causing the death of another driver or passenger.

Negligent Homicide

In the area of Arizona criminal law, negligent homicide is considered killing someone out of criminal negligence. While the term negligence may bring to mind tort law, criminal negligence is much more serious than simple negligence found in most civil cases. Criminal negligence is a gross neglect of, disregard for, inattention to or willful blindness of a legally defined duty to protect others from harm by doing or not doing something. In many states, negligent homicide involves the use of a motor vehicle such as a car, boat or snowmobile. In the case of a Phoenix DUI, this would be considered a neglect of a legal duty to protect oneself and others by not driving under the influence.

Negligent homicide is the least serious offense in Arizona that is applied to DUI homicides. However, it is still comparatively serious when it comes to the possible sentence for conviction of negligent homicide. Being a class 4 felony in Arizona, conviction of negligent homicide carries a minimum jail sentence of one year and is not to exceed eight years. This jail sentence would be in addition to any consequences concerning the individual's actual DUI offense which may include jail time, harsh fines and other court ordered sanctions. With the help of a Phoenix DUI lawyer from our firm, however, this does not necessarily have to be the case.


Slightly more serious is the charge of manslaughter for DUI that ended in the death of someone else. While the key element for negligent homicide was criminal negligence, manslaughter is characterized by reckless behavior. In comparison to negligence, recklessness is conduct that is expected or known by any reasonable person to put others in danger of harm. General criminal cases involving a charge of manslaughter usually involve the intentional infliction of injury to the victim without the knowledge or intention that it would lead to death. For example, if someone punches someone in a bar fight and that person stumble over and falls on a piece of glass that fatally punctures their head, that would be considered manslaughter. It was not the intention of the defendant to kill the victim, but they did do something knowing it would injury the person.

In the case of DUI, this would legally translate into a charge of manslaughter if the defendant is found guilty of intentionally driving under the influence, knowing that such actions put others in danger of being injured. Because drunk driving is universally known as dangerous behavior, manslaughter is the most frequent charge given in Arizona cases involving vehicular homicide. Under the Arizona Revised Statute, manslaughter is categorized as a class 2 felony, which makes it punishable by seven to 21 years in jail on top of other DUI related punishments. The length of the actual jail sentence is often determined by the level of blood alcohol content recorded at the time of the accident, with higher levels receiving longer sentences.

Second Degree Murder

The heaviest charge that is usually given for a DUI related death is second degree murder. As a class 1 felony, second degree murder is punishable by 10 – 22 years in prison. One level up from manslaughter, second degree murder assumes the defendant knew that his or her actions would lead to the victim's death but those actions were not premeditated or planned until the moment of the action. Second degree murder is the rarest conviction given in a DUI related death case because it is especially hard for the prosecution to prove that the sober intentions of the driver were to kill the victim since they were intoxicated at the time of the accident. However, there have been instances in which an individual has received a charge of second degree murder after DUI, usually having to do with the extremely high blood alcohol content at the time of the accident.

Rosenstein Law Group - Phoenix DUI Lawyer

If you have been charged with any of the three crimes listed above after a DUI accident, you need to contact a Phoenix DUI lawyer immediately. Prosecution of these crimes, especially when they involve DUI, is extremely aggressive and you should have equally aggressive defense representation by your side. Rosenstein Law Group will be able to provide you with skilled representation in order for you to maximize your chances for a favorable outcome. Call our office today and inquire about our free initial case evaluations to begin the process towards your defense.

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