DANGEROUS VEHICULAR CRIMES (SECOND DEGREE MURDER, MANSLAUGHTER, AGGRAVATED ASSAULT)
FORMER MAJOR CRIMES PROSECUTOR AND DUI JUDGE AT OLIVERSON & HUSS
Good people make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are huge mistakes, and come at high costs. The minute a person impaired by alcohol or drugs makes the decision to put a vehicle into motion on the street, they are jeopardizing society, and removing themselves from controlling their own destiny. The ramifications of this decision are extremely significant and life-changing. Unfortunately, the consequences are rarely contemplated at the time this decision is made. DUI-related vehicular felonies are a class of offenses where an upstanding and exemplary person charged with any of these offenses may end up facing a lengthy prison term for a first time offense. It is important to immediately consult with an Arizona defense attorney skilled and experienced in the investigation and prosecution of DUI-related vehicle crimes.
Jeremy Huss of Oliverson & Huss has nearly two decades of experience in handling DUI-related vehicular felony crimes in Arizona. Mr. Huss understands how these cases are investigated and prosecuted. Not only is he knowledgeable on the nuts and bolts legal aspects of these offenses, but also understands the real-world emotion that goes along with them. Mr. Huss has seen many people (grandfathers, mothers, fathers, teens) with no criminal record whatsoever be prosecuted for these offenses. None of these individuals ever set out to intentionally hurt somebody, and were generally loving and fun people who made the bad decision to drive themselves home from a night out. Also, Derek Oliverson is a former DUI Judge, and Police Officer. He is well-versed in the representation of impaired drivers, and is knowledgeable on the nuances and issues that may come up in a DUI-related investigation, including vehicular felony crimes.
DUI-related Vehicular crimes in Arizona are prosecuted aggressively, particularly in Maricopa County. The State will charge any number of offenses, including Second Degree Murder (typically under Extreme Indifference to Human Life theory), Manslaughter, Negligent Homicide, Aggravated Assault, and Endangerment. These offenses may all be charged as “Dangerous Offenses” under ARS 13-704, which carries with it mandatory prison sentences, with no probation eligibility. Under ARS 13-105(13), a “Dangerous Offense” means an offense involving the discharge, use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument…”
A MOTOR VEHICLE IS A “DANGEROUS INSTRUMENT” IN ARIZONA
A.R.S. 13-105(12) defines “Dangerous Instrument” as anything that under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury.
This means that the instrument itself was not designed or created for lethal force (like a “deadly weapon” would, like a knife or a firearm). Rather, the way it was used (drunk driver operating it and losing control) made it readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. Specifically, a motor vehicle is designed for transportation purposes, not for lethal force. However, if someone operates a vehicle recklessly (and operating a motor vehicle impaired is inherently reckless behavior), the vehicle becomes a dangerous instrument.
DUI RELATED VEHICULAR FELONIES & CRIMES
These incidents may result in any number of injuries, ranging from death to scratches, and everything in between (brain injuries, broken bones, loss of limbs, etc.) What crime is charged in these scenarios is dependent upon what type of injury the victim sustains, and the level of the impaired driver’s recklessness.
SECOND DEGREE MURDER: ARS 13-1104(A)(3)
Under ARS 13-1104(A)(3), a person commits second degree murder if without premeditation, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, the person recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of recklessly causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child.
Typically, Second Degree Murder is not charged in a vehicular homicide in Arizona. Rather, Manslaughter is typically charged. However, a charge of Second Degree Murder in a DUI accident may be an appropriate charge if, under the circumstances, the person exhibited “an extreme indifference to human life”. For example, the person was not only impaired with a BAC of a 0.20, but the person also drove 100 MPH down a residential street and hit an on-coming vehicle. In that situation, the person’s conduct created a grave risk of death, and the actions, under the circumstances (100 MPH down a residential street) manifested an extreme indifference to human life.
Second Degree Murder is a Class 1 Felony, and is punishable by a prison sentence of 10 to 25 years, with the presumptive term being 16 years. A person convicted of Second Degree Murder must serve 100% of the sentence imposed.
Under ARS 13-1103(A)(1), a person commits Manslaughter by recklessly causing the death of another person.
This is generally the charge that the State will bring forward in a case involving a DUI motor vehicle accident where the victim dies.
Manslaughter is a Class 2 Dangerous Felony. It has a sentencing range of 7 to 21 years in prison, with the presumptive sentence being 10.5 years in prison. Manslaughter is a Dangerous offense under ARS 13-704.
Under ARS 13-1102, a person commits negligent homicide if with criminal negligence, the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn person.
Negligent Homicide is a Class 4 Dangerous Felony. It has a sentencing range of 4 to 8 years prison, with the presumptive sentence being 6 years. Negligent Homicide is a Dangerous offense under ARS 13-704.
Under ARS 13-1204(A)(2), a person commits Aggravated Assault if the person commits assault (as prescribed by section 13-1203 (Simple Assault Statute)), if the person uses a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
A.R.S. 13-1203(A) states a person commits assault by:
(1) Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person; or
(2) Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or
(3) Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult, or provoke such person.
This is the offense that the State of Arizona will charge if a person is impaired by alcohol or drugs and causes an accident that results in some injury. If there is no injury, the charge is generally Endangerment under ARS 13-1203.
Aggravated Assault under ARS 13-1204(A)(2) (use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument) is a Class 3 Dangerous Felony, punishable as a Dangerous offense under ARS 13-704. Aggravated Assault carries a mandatory prison sentence ranging from a minimum sentence of 5 years to a maximum sentence of 15 years, with the presumptive sentence being 7.5 years.
DEFENSE OF VEHICULAR FELONY OFFENSES IN ARIZONA
Jeremy Huss and Derek Oliverson of Oliverson & Huss bring a unique perspective to defending these cases. Mr. Oliverson is a former police officer, prosecutor, judge, and current Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney. Mr. Huss is a former major felony prosecutor that is familiar with how vehicular felony offenses are investigated and prosecuted.
In defending these cases, Mr. Huss and Mr. Oliverson work with a team, including another associate attorney, an accident reconstruction expert, and an investigator. If need be, other experts are retained. The experts review all of the evidence supported by law enforcement, and assist in developing strategy and in identifying weaknesses in the case and law enforcement investigation.
It is very important to consult and retain an attorney immediately when these investigations begin. Mr. Huss and Mr. Oliverson are available at any time to discuss these matters. Call us at (480) 616-8229