Arizona DUI’s Involving Accidents Are Elevated to Felonies

by Aaron M. Black • August 12, 2022

Phoenix drivers who are impaired by alcohol and cause an accident that seriously injures or kills someone – including passengers in the driver’s vehicle – will have a standard misdemeanor DUI raised to a far more serious felony.

DUI Felony Accident Scene

If the accident resulted in a death, the state will file a Class 2 felony, the second most serious in the felony range, alleging a charge of vehicular manslaughter.

An accident DUI can be charged in several ways: aggravated assault DUI; endangerment; and manslaughter. An aggravated assault involves using a deadly or dangerous weapon that is in the vehicle.

Should the impaired driver leave the scene of a fatal or serious injury accident, the state will add a Class 3 felony charge under Arizona Revised Statute § 28-661. However, a driver who caused the accident will face a more serious Class 2 felony for causing the serious injury. If the drunk driver did not cause the accident, the state can charge a lesser Class 3 felony.

Under Arizona Revised Statute 28-661 (C) a driver who caused the accident and flees will be charged with hit-and-run, which is a Class 2 felony.

Vehicular manslaughter

The most common of manslaughter cases happen on our Phoenix and Scottsdale roads. The dangerous weapon is the vehicle with the driver speeding, driving aggressively, racing, or driving impaired by alcohol.

An involuntary manslaughter charge may be applied in impaired driving cases because the driver did not intend to kill anyone.

Arizona has a baseline blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent for a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious of the misdemeanor range. Higher intoxication levels increase the DUI charge to a felony for aggravated and extreme DUI. If a child younger than 15 was in the vehicle at the time the driver was arrested, that adds an aggravated felony charge.

A driver under Arizona law can be legally impaired even if the BAC is below the baseline. This is the result of the zero tolerance policy allowing arrests for drivers who are just “slightly impaired.” The size, weight, and alcohol tolerance of people play a part in the level of impairment because the body’s metabolism processes alcohol at different rates over time.

Consequences of a vehicular manslaughter conviction

Jail Time For Felony DUI ConvictionsArizona prison sentencing guideline provisions are comprised of minimum, presumptive, and maximum ranges. For a first-time offender charged with the dangerous Class 2 felony, the minimum sentence is seven years, the presumptive is 10.5 years, and the maximum prison term is 21 years.

For an offender who has one prior dangerous Class 2 conviction, the minimum is 14 years, the presumptive is 15.75 years, and the maximum is 28 years.

For someone who has two prior Class 2 dangerous felony convictions, the range increases to a minimum of 21 years, a presumptive of 28 years, and a maximum of 35 years.

The sentences for the DUI and for causing serious injury or death will be served one after the other, which is called consecutively.

A judge has the discretion in determining the actual length of the sentence, so the punishments can vary depending upon the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history and if it is the person’s first offense. The judge may also impose fines and a term of probation after the period of incarceration ends.

The license to drive is revoked for five years in serious injury cases and 10 years if a fatality occurred not including any time that the offender is incarcerated.

Civil financial penalties

Other than years in prison, a driver who seriously injures or kills someone can be sued by the victim’s family for financial and punitive damages under civil law, for medical bills or causing a wrongful death, to recover what the deceased person could have earned had he or she lived. The offender’s future wages can be garnished. While criminal law requires the state to have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, civil law just requires a lesser burden of a preponderance of the evidence.

Elements necessary to prove an accident DUI

To earn a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the accused drunk driver was intoxicated to at least the slightest degree, that (2) the accident caused bodily harm or death to another person and property damage, and that (3) the alcohol impaired driver did cause the accident.

Common vehicular manslaughter defenses

We all have the constitutional right that protects us from convicting ourselves. In interacting with authorities, it is crucial to invoke the Fifth Amendment because anything said will become evidence against you.

Every vehicular manslaughter case has its unique set of facts that will determine the most effective defense strategy. These are the common defenses for this offense:
  • The defendant was not reckless
  • The death was the fault of the victim
  • Reconstruction of the accident to show the vehicle had defects causing the accident
  • The vehicle was not a “dangerous instrument”
  • Challenging the accuracy of witness statements
  • Violations of Miranda rights to remain silent and to have an attorney
  • The police report was misleading or contained substantive errors of fact
  • The breathalyzer test was inaccurate because of calibration faults
  • Blood draw test result was tainted by improper handling or storage
  • The defendant’s confession was coerced

Aaron M. Black Law for Accident DUI Defense
Should you or a loved be charged or are under investigation for a DUI involving an accident, it is crucial that you be represented by a seasoned DUI defense attorney such as myself. In my long career as an aggressive DUI defense attorney, I know that good people can find themselves in legal trouble and that is why I ensure they have the best defense possible.

I will scrutinize the state’s evidence and the personnel records of the investigators involved looking for inconsistencies and errors. I also will work to develop information and evidence that is favorable to your case.

At Aaron M. Black Law you will receive personalized legal services. You will always be talking directly to me at every step of your case, never an assistant.
Begin your DUI with accident defense immediately by calling 480-729-1683, which is available 24/7, and I will respond promptly unless I am in court on at trial. Or use the online contact form on my website.

I defend DUI cases involving an accident in Phoenix, Scottsdale and throughout Arizona, including Maricopa, Pinal, Yavapai, and Coconino County Superior Courts.


About the Author

Aaron Black Phoenix DUI LawyerAaron Black is the founder and sole attorney of the Law Office of Aaron Black. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, his DUI and criminal defense law firm provides legal services to people who have received felony or misdemeanor charges from the state.

Aaron has developed a strong interest in defending people who have been arrested and received criminal charges for driving under the influence. With his professionalism and knowledge of Arizona DUI and criminal law, he has acted as a check and balance on the police, prosecution and courts and has protected a great number of his clients from excessive and unfair sentencing.

Along with DUI defense, Aaron handles a range of other criminal defense matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes, and white-collar crime cases.

After graduating college in 2003 from the University of Arizona, Aaron decided to pursue a law degree. He followed a family long tradition and went to the University of South Dakota School of Law where he pursued his goal of becoming a criminal defense lawyer.

After passing the Arizona and South Dakota bar exams, Aaron joined the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender where he defended hundreds of people charged with serious criminal offenses. His work as a public defender helped him sharpen his litigation skills and gave him a unique insight into the Arizona criminal justice system.

Over the course of his 15-year legal career, Aaron has spent a considerable amount of time in both Arizona justice, municipal, state and federal courts. He has argued over 50 jury trials, tried over 100 bench trials and has become one of the highest-rated criminal and DUI defense attorneys in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. He has received a 10/10 rating from the legal directory Avvo because of his legal background and successful case record. Since 2014, he has received the Super Lawyer rating for his work as a Phoenix DUI Attorney and criminal defense attorney.

You can review Aaron’s Attorney Bio page for more information about his background, education and experience as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.
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