Manslaughter Charges and Defenses in Arizona DUI Cases

by Aaron M. Black • September 10, 2021

DUI's Leading to Manslaughter ChargesTaking the life of another person in greater Phoenix can result in a manslaughter charge, which is one step down from murder. Manslaughter is a “dangerous” Class 2 felony that is life changing with years in state prison if convicted. If the charge has an aggravated component DUI allegation, additional prison time is permitted under law.

Manslaughter has five forms under Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1103.
 
  1. Recklessly causing the death of another person.
     
  2. Committing a second degree murder resulting from a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion with adequate provocation on the part of the victim.
     
  3. Intentionally giving another person the physical means to commit suicide and knowing the other person intended to commit suicide.
     
  4. Committing a second degree murder while coerced to do so by another person who is threatening immediate deadly force that a reasonable person could not resist.
     
  5. Recklessly or knowingly causing the death of an unborn child at any stage of development by inflicting any physical injury to the mother. The exception is if the person was performing a legal abortion or some other medical procedure on the mother or unborn child with the mother’s consent.
     
The state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and must show that the defendant was aware of the risk or should have been aware of it and acted in a manner that a reasonable person would not have done.

Vehicular manslaughter in Arizona

The most common manslaughter cases happen on our roads. The dangerous weapon is the vehicle with the driver speeding, driving aggressively, racing, or driving impaired by alcohol or drugs, even prescription medications.

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 because 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.

Drivers who have consumed marijuana can also be charged with impairment.

An impaired driving charge can be added to the manslaughter allegation.

Consequences of a manslaughter conviction in Phoenix AZ

Arizona prison sentencing guideline provisions are comprised of minimum, presumptive, and maximum ranges. For a first-time offender charged with the dangerous Class 2 felony, manslaughter, 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.

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.

Civil financial punishment

Other than years in prison, the family of the person killed can sue for financial and punitive damages, under civil law for 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 far lesser burden of a preponderance of the evidence.

Common 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 manslaughter case has its own particular set of facts that will determine the most effective defense strategy. These are the common defenses:
  • Challenging the state’s version that the defendant’s action was reckless
     
  • The death was the fault of the victim
     
  • The death was committed in self-defense
     
  • Errors in residue testing of gunshot cases
     
  • Mistakes in ballistics testing
     
  • Contaminated DNA testing
     
  • The defendant’s confession was coerced
     
  • Reconstructing the crash to show vehicle defects were at fault
     
  • 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
     

Why use Aaron M. Black Law

If you or a loved one is under pre-charge manslaughter investigation or has been arrested for manslaughter, it is crucial to promptly have an experienced criminal defense attorney such as myself to defend your case.

Aaron M. Black Law has decades of experience defending good people who find themselves in serious legal trouble, without being negatively judged. My goal is always to win the case or to earn a dismissal of the charge or, if that is not possible, to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charge to a less serious offense.

My legal services are based upon providing individual attention throughout the legal process to win back your life. You will always be talking to me, no one else. A big complaint from people who are in legal trouble is that the lawyer was not accessible enough. That does not happen at Aaron M. Black Law.

Learn what options may be available to you and begin your defense by calling 480-729-1683 at any time on any day, weekends or holidays, and I will respond promptly unless I am in court or at trial. Or use my convenient online contact form.

I provide legal defense services in justice, municipal, state and federal courts in and near Maricopa County.

About the Author

Aaron 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 matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes and white-collar crime.

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 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.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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