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DUI Accident Resulting in Death

A DUI accident resulting in a death charge is not always easy to beat. Prosecutors in Arizona aggressively charge driving under the influence. Penalties can be severe, including loss of driving privileges, incarceration, a risk to your job security, and financial hardships originating from increased insurance premiums and fines. The most effective strategy to fight your charges is seeking legal assistance. The Phoenix Criminal Attorney takes pride in previous successes defending DUI criminal charges and knowing how to develop the appropriate defense strategy.

Legal Alcohol Limits for Driving

In Arizona, you will be prosecuted with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (notwithstanding whether the drugs are illegal or prescribed) if your blood alcohol concentration is above 0.08 percent. If you are a commercial motorist, you will receive a DUI charge if the BAC is greater than 0.04 percent. Finally, if your DUI accident results in death, you will face an enhanced penalty.

Please note, you do not have to be operating your vehicle to be charged with drunk driving. All you need is to be in physical control of your car. The jury or judge determines whether you are in physical control using the following factors:

  • Was the vehicle's ignition on?

  • Was the motor vehicle running?

  • Where were the vehicle keys?

  • Were you asleep or awake?

  • Was the car stopped?

  • Were the headlights off or not?

  • What time did the accident occur?

  • Was there clarification for the case circumstance proved by the case evidence?

  • What was the weather condition?

  • Did you voluntarily pull off the road?

If you are found in your motor vehicle in the middle of the road with lights turned on and keys in the car ignition, you are considered to have physical control. On the contrary, if you are found asleep in your car in the parking lot with headlights turned off and keys in your pocket, you are not in the vehicle's physical control.

DUI Accident Causing Death Charges

The law does not treat a drunk driving charge gently. While a normal DUI charge is a misdemeanor, if a person dies, including an unborn baby, you will be charged under Arizona's homicide law. An accident could cause murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide charges against you, depending on the case circumstances. The main variation between the homicide types is your mental state.

Negligent Homicide

You can be sentenced for negligent homicide for causing another person's death while operating your car in a criminally negligent way. Negligent homicide is charged as a Class 4 felony.

You act criminally negligent when you fail to perceive the unjustifiable and significant risk that will happen or the circumstances exist. The risk should be of the degree and nature that your failure to perceive constitutes a gross deviation from the care which a reasonable individual in a similar situation would take.


You will face manslaughter if you recklessly cause another person's death. It is charged as a Class 2 felony and is more severe compared to negligent homicide.

You act recklessly by knowingly failing to act or doing something which creates an unjustifiable and significant risk to other persons. The risk should be of a degree or nature that the failure to perceive the risk constitutes a gross deviation from the care a reasonable individual could take in similar circumstances.

Also, a defendant who creates a risk but does not know the risk because they are voluntarily intoxicated acted recklessly.

The variation between criminal negligent and reckless behavior is whether you did not know of the risk in which the death could happen or intentionally ignored the risk of death could take place.

Second-Degree Murder

You commit second-degree murder when you recklessly engage in behavior that creates a significant risk of demise to somebody else. To be found guilty of this type of homicide, the crime circumstances should establish an extreme indifference to human life.

The legal phrase "extreme indifference to human life" means what the jury determines that it implies. The statute does not define the phrase and cases reviewing what is needed to sentence a person for second-degree murder. The prosecutor should show that there should be proof that the defendant has a more significant level of knowledge of the risk that the demise could happen than could be essential to convict a person of manslaughter. However, the case does not outline the facts the prosecutor should prove or what proof would be.

The main difference between second-degree murder and manslaughter is the issue of degree. The difference is not clear. Nevertheless, second-degree murder needs evidence of a more guilty mental state instead of recklessness, which is manslaughter's mental state.

What are the Penalties of Vehicular Homicide?

As previously stated, the penalties of DUI accident resulting in death depends on the case circumstances. Generally, possible penalties include:

Negligent Homicide

Its maximum penalties include one hundred and fifty dollars in fines and three years and nine months in state prison.

Second-Degree Murder

It's a Class 1 felony. It attracts:

  • A maximum of one hundred and fifty dollars in fines

  • Twelve years in prison

Nevertheless, if the alleged victim was below twelve years of age, you might be subjected to life imprisonment. And if the offense involves a twelve, thirteen, or fourteen-year-old person, you could face thirteen to twenty-seven years in Arizona state prison.

Having a BAC greater than 0.15 percent is an aggravating factor and could result in a maximum sentence.

Fighting DUI Collision Causing Death Charges

There is a misconception that if charged with DUI causing death, there isn't a way out. You could as well save yourself time and energy and plead guilty. However, that is not true. There are numerous methods to beat charge:

You Did Not Cause the Accident

Even when you drove while under the influence, that does not mean you caused the collision.

Your criminal defense lawyer should engage an accident reconstruction expert to prove what took place.

There was Prosecutorial or Police Misconduct

Just because the charge is severe doesn't mean that the prosecutor and police can compromise your constitutional rights.

For instance, if the police officer made a misleading statement about the consequence of refusing or taking a blood alcohol test, your test results should be suppressed.

Also, a prosecutor cannot use a defendant's statements as evidence for the DUI resulting in death charges if the police did not properly issue Miranda warnings.

You Were Not Driving While Under the Influence

If you didn't operate your vehicle while drunk, you cannot be sentenced for the crime. Therefore, your defense attorney should work on challenging the arrest or underlying DUI. Effective ways your lawyer could do this include proving that:

  1. Illegal Stop of Vehicle or Person

The police should not stop you unless they have an articulable or reasonable basis to think that you committed a criminal offense or traffic violation.

Also, the police cannot seize you without a reason to think that a violation of law has happened.

  1. Field Sobriety Test was Improperly Administered

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a wrongly administered field sobriety test is not valid evidence of intoxication.

  1. Use of a Faulty Breathalyzer

While you would hope that the police officers will not use a faulty breathalyzer, it happens sometimes. Using a malfunctioning device could result in the dismissal of the charges.

Police Officer's Previous Disciplinary Record

If the arresting police officer has a disciplinary record, that could be used to cast doubt on their credibility.

What is the Statute of Limitations of DUI Causing Death?

A Statute of Limitations is the law that sets forth the time frame of pressing charges in a court of law. When the prosecutor misses the deadline, you can use the Statute of Limitations as a legal defense. If you prove that the time frame has passed, the court will dismiss the charge, unless exceptions call for an extension.

The clock begins ticking after the case arises. The starting point is sometimes known as the accrual of the cause of action. It is time the prosecution team should press charges.

Generally, the DUI accident resulting in death carries a Statute of Limitations of seven (7) years.

Can You Expunge Your DUI Causing Death Conviction?

Expungement is the process of setting aside your conviction. After the expungement, you can claim that your criminal record is clean.

Before discussing expungement, you should know that your conviction leads to two distinct records when you are charged.

  • The Motor Vehicle Department: Insurance providers use the MVD record in determining your insurance rates.

  • Criminal justice record: The criminal records are available to the public and are for life. It can affect the ability to acquire employment, scholarship, and housing.

ARS 13-907

It is difficult answering the question of whether it is possible to expunge the crime in question.

You can't expunge an MVD record. However, the only adverse consequence is on insurance premiums and your driver's license. It will disappear from the MVD record after five (5) years.

You can file a petition to set aside the conviction after completing your sentence. It releases you from the negative consequences of the conviction. That means the charge will not appear on a background check.

Factors Used by Courts During A Set-Aside

The court will put the following into consideration:

  • The seriousness of the offense

  • Your conduct since the conviction

  • Whether you followed the sentence terms and conditions

  • The duration since your conviction

If the judge grants the expungement, they will grant your application.

Please note, those seeking criminal record expungement pay hefty fines and fees. Moreover, they should meet all court obligations.

Why Representing Yourself Is Not Advisable?

Most people build their own homes, buy or sell their houses, or repair their motor vehicles. However, they will never think of performing a medical procedure on themselves. Representing yourself in a court is identical to performing a medical procedure on yourself. It is a costly mistake. It is also hard to rectify because:

  • The prosecution team doesn't give the incentive to reduce your charge.

  • Chances are the prosecutor will not listen to you.

  • The prosecution team will not take you seriously during plea bargain negotiations.

There are several reasons why a criminal defense lawyer is in your best interests, including:

DUI Accident Resulting in Death Has Severe Penalties

When convicted, you might be sentenced. You might also lose your driver's license, pay fines, and be subjected to high insurance premiums.

The most effective way to avoid or minimize the consequences is getting legal assistance. The attorney will help you to understand how to defend yourself.

DUI Laws are Complicated

The charge depends on things such as rising BAC or a malfunction breathalyzer test. Any experienced attorney knows the science behind the driving under the influence charge or can engage an expert witness.

The Lawyer Know How to Plea Bargain Your Charges

Your DUI defense lawyer knows how the judicial system works and can assist. They will also use their negotiation skills to get you a lesser sentence.

The Charge Carries Both Criminal and Administrative Consequences

When you get arrested, you deal with the Motor Vehicle Department and the criminal court. Only a knowledgeable attorney can help you deal with the MVD and persuade the MVD to retain your driver's license for limited purposes.

Understanding the Criminal Process for DUI Accident Resulting in Death

The Phoenix Criminal Attorney understands that the criminal process in Arizona can be scary and confusing to defendants. Here is the basis of the process.


The investigation is the first step in your criminal charge. Police officers collect proof that you committed the offense. Please note, the phase can last years or even minutes.


After the police have adequate evidence, they will arrest you and take you to the police station.

If the police make a mistake during your arrest, your attorney may leverage the error to your advantage. While the police should not read Miranda warnings to all arrestees, the failure to do so could be a basis to suppress some confessions or statements. Also, to make a felony arrest in Arizona, the arresting police should have a probable cause.


The next step after your arrest is booking. When you are booked the following happens:

  • You are asked questions about the accident

  • You are legally searched with or without consent

  • You are photographed and fingerprinted

If you want the booking information about your loved one, you can contact the jurisdiction hotline. You will require the defendant's name, date of birth, and booking number. The jail will then provide details about the charge, arresting agency, bail amount, and court dates.

Post-Arrest Investigation

Post-arrest investigation is done after your arrest, but before the prosecutor files your charges. It isn't a must that the police release their report before your arraignment. Nevertheless, sometimes a defense lawyer can request the police to release the report.

If you engage a criminal defense lawyer early, they could stop the DUI charge, causing death from being charged or having a less severe charge filed.

If charged, the prosecutor will file a complaint with a court of law. The complaint outlines the charges against you.


The police should hold you for twenty-four hours following your arrest before appearing before a judge. You have a right to a criminal defense lawyer.

During the arraignment, you will be read the charge against you and your rights. The Bail amount is set as well. Bail is the assurance that you will attend all court hearings. The bail amount is set depending on the seriousness of your crime.

Your attorney will be given discovery after the arraignment. Discovery includes:

  • Medical reports

  • Photos

  • Probation reports

  • Physical evidence diagrams

  • Police reports

Preliminary Hearing

Please note a preliminary hearing only happens in a felony crime. The court needs to determine whether there is adequate evidence to support your charges.

If the prosecutor believes there is sufficient proof, they will bring a document with the Superior Court.

Plea Bargain

A plea bargain could be several months between your arraignment and trial. During this period, your attorney and the prosecutor will gather proof in your case that makes it less or more likely that you violated the law. It forms the basis for a plea bargain.

Usually, a plea bargain involves pleading guilty to a less serious offense, leading to lighter penalties.


If a resolution is not reached before your trial date, the case will proceed to trial. During the trial, the prosecutor will present evidence that your DUI accident caused death, and your defense attorney will raise reasonable doubts.

Should the jury find you innocent, you will be released. If convicted, the criminal process proceeds to sentencing.


Sentencing is the hearing where the jury gives the verdict. The stage comes with a lot of flexibility, and your defense lawyer can make the most of the case.


If found guilty, you can file an appeal. The appeal ensures that the court didn't make an error. It can cause the reversal of your conviction.

Find Legal Representation Near Me

Dealing with the judicial system due to a DUI resulting in a death charge can be confusing. Whether you think you might be charged, are being prosecuted as a felony, or investigated, you should be aggressive and proactive in protecting your rights. Phoenix Criminal Attorney knows what is at stake. Beyond the likelihood of incarceration and fines, a conviction with a criminal record can affect your ability to secure education, housing, and employment. However, our attorneys can develop legal defenses and strategies tailored to protect your future, career, family, and livelihood. To schedule your initial consultation, contact us at 602-551-8092.

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