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As Drunk Driving Arrests Decline in Arizona, Deaths Increase

Tempe criminal defense lawyerArizona Among Highest Increases in Fatal Alcohol-Related Accidents

The good news would be that the East Valley Tribune reported on January 8 that driving under the influence (DUI) arrests in Arizona decreased 14 percent from 2014 to 2016. The bad news, however, is that CBS News reported on December 26, 2016, that 2016 could go down as one of the worst years for drunk driving deaths.

The 10,265 people killed in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2015 was an increase of nearly 300 from 2014, and 2016 was shaping up to be even deadlier. Mark Rosekind of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told CBS News that the agency was seeing increases it had not seen in 50 years.

According to NHTSA, the 272 Arizona alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in Arizona in 2015 were a 36 percent increase from the 200 such deaths in 2014. While other states had higher fatality totals and larger percentages of drunk driving deaths, Arizona was among the five highest alcohol-impaired driving fatality increases.

In 2014, NHTSA reported that 64 percent of the 9,967 total fatalities in alcohol-impaired driving crashes were drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Another 15 percent were passengers with BACs of 0.08 or higher, and the remaining 20 percent were occupants of other vehicles or nonoccupants such as pedestrians, bicyclists, and others.

In November 2016, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) released its 2016 Report to the Nation. In the report, Arizona was one of only five states to score four-and-a-half stars out of five for drunk driving countermeasures such as ignition interlock devices (IIDs), sobriety checkpoints, administrative license revocation (ALR), child endangerment, and refusal to submit to alcohol breath tests.

CBS News reported last month that NHTSA is hoping that new technology, such as sensors that would measure a driver’s BAC and prevent an automobile from starting if it is too high, will reduce drunk driving deaths. Such technology, however, could still be some time away and authorities in the meantime will be more likely to actively seek out and arrest alleged offenders with prosecutors more aggressively seeking harsh punishments for alleged DUI offenders who have high BACs and/or cause accidents that injure or kill other people.

Extreme and Super Extreme DUI Penalties in Arizona

Many traditional DUI arrests involve alleged offenders being charged with offenses under Arizona Revised Statute § 28-1381, which criminalizes driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle when a person has a BAC of 0.08. If an alleged offender, however, has a BAC of 0.15 or more but less than 0.20, he or she may be charged with driving or actual physical control while under the extreme influence of intoxicating liquor (also known as extreme DUI) under Arizona Revised Statute § 28-1382. If the alleged offender had a BAC of 0.20 or higher, then that person could face super extreme DUI charges.

While all first DUI offenses are classified as class 1 misdemeanors that can result in a 90-day suspension of a driver’s license, the BAC level of the alleged offender can drastically impact the severity of the other possible penalties if convicted:

Non-Extreme DUI (0.08-0.149) Extreme DUI (0.15-0.199) Super Extreme DUI (0.20 or higher)
Minimum Jail Sentence One day 30 days 45 days
Fines
  • $250 fine + 80 percent surcharge$500 prison assessment
  • $500 Department of Public Safety (DPS) assessment
  • Jail costs
  • Evaluation costs
  • Treatment costs
  • Probation fees
  • $250 fine + 80 percent surcharge$1,000 prison assessment
  • $1,000 DPS assessment
  • $250 abatement fee
  • Jail costs
  • Evaluation costs
  • Treatment costs
  • Probation fees
  • Approximately $3,500 in fines and costs
  • Approximately $3,000 in jail costs
Minimum IID installation period 12 months 18 months 18 months

If an alleged offender is arrested for a second offense, the crime remains a class 1 misdemeanors but driver’s licenses may be revoked for one year and other penalties again increase for extreme or super extreme DUI offenses:

Non-Extreme DUI (0.08-0.149) Extreme DUI (0.15-0.199) Super Extreme DUI (0.20 or higher)
Minimum Jail Sentence 30 days 120 days 180 days
Fines
  • $250 fine + 80 percent surcharge$1,250 prison assessment
  • $250 abatement fee
  • Jail costs
  • Evaluation costs
  • Treatment costs
  • Probation fees
  • $250 fine + 80 percent surcharge$1,250 prison assessment
  • $1,250 DPS assessment
  • $250 abatement fee
  • Jail costs
  • Evaluation costs
  • Treatment costs
  • Probation fees
  • Approximately $4,500 in fines and costs
  • Approximately $12,500 in jail costs
Minimum IID installation period 12 months 24 months 24 months

A third DUI offense within a period of 84 months (seven years) constitutes aggravated DUI under Arizona Revised Statute § 28-1383. Aggravated DUI is a class 4 felony that can carry a minimum of four months in prison plus a fine of up to $150,000 plus an 80 percent surcharge, a $1,500 prison assessment, a $250 abatement fee, evaluation costs, treatment costs, and probation fees as well as a three-year revocation of the alleged offender’s driver’s license.

Arizona DUI accidentCriminal Charges Following DUI-Related Crashes

Arizona does not have a specific statute set aside for DUI crimes that result in death or bodily injury, but alleged offenders may be charged with enhanced DUI offenses or other crimes. Even first-time DUI offenders can face aggravated DUI charges if they are accused of causing an accident that results in another party suffering bodily injury.

In some cases, alleged offenders who were allegedly intoxicated when causing a crash that resulted in serious bodily injuries may be charged with aggravated assault. Under Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1204, an alleged offender commits aggravated assault if he or she commits assault (intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes any physical injury to another person) that either causes serious physical injury to another person or involved the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

A motor vehicle can be considered a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument in Arizona, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol can be considered reckless behavior. Aggravated assault is classified as a class 3 felony offense, which means a conviction is punishable by a minimum of two-and-a-half years up to seven years in prison as well as many of the fines associated with the underlying DUI offense.

If another person dies as the result of an accident allegedly caused by a drunk driver, the alleged offender may be charged with a homicide offense under Title 13, Chapter 11 of the Arizona Revised Code. The criminal charge that an alleged offender faces will depend on the culpable mental state of that person. Arizona Revised Statute § 13-105.10 provides the following definitions for culpable mental states:

  • Intentionally means, with respect to a result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense, that a person’s objective is to cause that result or to engage in that conduct;
  • Knowingly means, with respect to conduct or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person is aware or believes that the person’s conduct is of that nature or that the circumstance exists. It does not require any knowledge of the unlawfulness of the act or omission;
  • Recklessly means, with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard of such risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. A person who creates such a risk but who is unaware of such risk solely by reason of voluntary intoxication also acts recklessly with respect to such risk; and
  • Criminal negligence means, with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

When an alleged DUI offender causes the death of another person, that individual could be charged with one of the following homicide offenses:

  • Negligent Homicide, Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1102 — An alleged offender with criminal negligence causes the death of another person, including an unborn child. This is a class 4 felony, and the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument (such as a vehicle) can make a conviction punishable by up to eight years in prison;
  • Manslaughter, Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1103 — An alleged offender recklessly causes the death of another person, or knowingly or recklessly causing the death of an unborn child by any physical injury to the mother. This is a class 2 felony, and alleged non-extreme DUI offenders may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. Extreme or super extreme DUI cases, however, can result in sentences of up to 21 years in prison;
  • Second Degree Murder, Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1104 — An alleged offender commits second degree murder if without premeditation the person intentionally causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of intentionally causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child; knowing that the person’s conduct will cause death or serious physical injury, the person causes the death of another person, including an unborn child or, as a result of knowingly causing the death of another person, causes the death of an unborn child; or 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. Second degree murder is a class 1 felony is punishable by up to 22 years in prison.

The level of an alleged DUI offender’s intoxication can play an important role in determining the criminal charges that he or she faces after an accident resulting in the death of another person. Second degree murder charges are rare because of the alleged intent to kill, but people charged with super extreme DUI may be more likely to face the second degree murder charges.

What You Should Do If Arrested for DUI After a Car Accident

When a person is arrested for any kind of drunk driving offense in Arizona, there is always an immediate fear about the possible consequences of being convicted of the crime. Many people who assume that they do not have any way to overcome the allegations after submitting to alcohol breath testing become even more hopeless about the possibility of getting criminal charges reduced or dismissed when they have caused accidents resulting in death or injuries.

The truth is that many of the same defenses applicable to basic DUI charges can be utilized for alleged offenders accused of extreme or super DUI crimes following crashes. Possible errors in the administration of any BAC tests can be used to prevent the results from being submitted into evidence in such cases.

Additionally, a criminal defense attorney may also be able to raise the issue of the alleged offender’s culpable mental state. Whereas a prosecutor may argue that an alleged offender knowingly or intentionally caused another party’s injuries or death, the defense lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced by proving that the accused individual actually acted with criminal negligence.

Another important factor that often needs to be explored in these cases is how the alleged victim sustained their serious or fatal injuries. Accident reconstruction experts may be able to uncover behaviors by the alleged victim or flaws with their vehicle that contributed to—or even caused—the collisions.

Car accident cases are extremely complex and one driver allegedly being intoxicated often provides an easy way for the initial investigators to assign fault to one party. The truth, however, is that it is not uncommon for the person initially perceived to be the alleged victim in such cases to actually have been the party who directly caused the cash.

When any person is arrested in Arizona for any kind of DUI offense following a motor vehicle collision, it is always in his or her best interest to not say anything to authorities until that individual has legal representation. You should avoid answering any questions or providing any statements until you retain legal counsel.

Criminal Defense Attorney for Extreme and Super Extreme DUI Arrests in Tempe, AZ

Tempe criminal defense attorneyThe Law Office of James E. Novak represents individuals all over Maricopa County who have been charged with DUI or related offenses. James E. Novak is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tempe who understands the most effective ways to approach these types of cases because of his prior experience on the other side of the aisle as a former prosecutor in Maricopa County.

When you have been charged with any kind of crime relating to an alleged DUI offense, it is critical for you to immediately seek the help of a knowledgeable attorney who can examine every aspect of your arrest. The Law Office of James E. Novak will review everything from how police administered your breath tests to how an accident occurred in order to determine all of the possible defenses that may be raised against your criminal charges.

James E. Novak aggressively defends clients in Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and several other surrounding areas in Maricopa County. The Law Office of James E. Novak utilizes investigators and forensic experts to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and fight for criminal charges being reduced or dismissed.

You can have our lawyer review your case and help you understand all of your legal options as soon as you call (480) 413-1499 or submit an online contact form to take advantage of a free, confidential consultation.

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