Articles Posted in Vehicular Crimes

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stop signIn a recent unpublished Arizona DUI decision, the defendant was convicted of second-degree murder, DUI, and extreme DUI. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for the murder charge. His DUI sentence was suspended, and he was put on two five-year probation terms set to start after he served his prison sentence.

The case arose shortly after 2:00 a.m. in 2014 when the defendant drove his car at between 73 mph and 93 mph into the back of the victim’s car at an intersection where the speed limit was 35 mph and there was a stop sign, which caused the victim to die of multiple blunt force injuries. The defendant had been drinking vodka at his friend’s apartment about a mile from the accident, and he couldn’t remember what happened between drinking the first drink and sitting at the accident scene.

The officer who was dispatched saw that the defendant was flushed with watery eyes and that his breath smelled like alcohol. Several officers saw six out of six cues on a field sobriety test, and when they told the defendant he would be charged with second-degree murder, he laughed and said okay. His alcohol level was tested three times and averaged .223.

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nissan-pathfinder-1466838-1-e1490133843106In a recent Arizona appellate case, the defendant was convicted of aggravated assault resulting in temporary but substantial disfigurement and assault. The lower court suspended the imposition of a sentence and put him on probation. The defendant appealed, claiming that there was prosecutorial misconduct in charging him with aggravated assault causing serious physical injury, and the court had made a mistake in denying his motion for a judgment of acquittal on that charge because the evidence showed minor injuries.

The case arose in 2012, when a trooper responded to a pickup truck accident. The trooper found that a pickup truck had left the road, and crashed into a sign. There was blood on the driver’s side of the pickup, and none on the passenger side. Emergency medical personnel treated the defendant and his mother. He had a bleeding cut above his left eye and on his hands. The mother didn’t have any blood on her, but complained about experiencing pain. The trooper observed that the defendant had red watery eyes and other signs of inebriation. The defendant admitted that he’d had a few drinks.

The defendant and his mother were taken to the hospital. The trooper followed. At the hospital, a nurse told the trooper they’d be drawing the defendant’s blood for medical purposes and the trooper asked for a sample. The trooper waited in a common area, and overheard the defendant talking on the phone and saying that he’d gotten into the accident after consuming alcohol at a restaurant. He also overheard the defendant confirm to his health care providers that he’d been drinking alcohol.

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Mesa Police Department Squad CarOne of least understood and most commonly charged crimes in Arizona is “Failure to Comply with a Lawful Order” in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) section 28-622(A). The crime is classified as a class 2 misdemeanor. The statute provides:

28-622. Failure to comply with police officer…

  1. A person shall not wilfully fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of a police officer invested by law with authority to direct, control or regulate traffic. (“Willful” and its variations are spelled “wilful” in the statute, an accepted but archaic spelling in American English.)
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Medical Marijuana and PrescriptionsOn November 20, 2015, the Supreme Court of Arizona decided Dobson v. McClennen (P.3d, 2015 WL 7353847, Arizona Supreme Court 2015). The decision has important implications for individuals that use medical marijuana and might have THC or its metabolite in their system but drive at a time when they are not impaired. Jokingly called the “Driving While a Habitual User of Marijuana,” these prosecutions are no joke.

Although the responsible use of cannabis for medical purposes has largely been decriminalized in Arizona, prior to this decision the DUI laws effectively made it a crime to drive as a medical marijuana patient (even after the impairing effects faded and disappeared). In other words, using medical marijuana should not automatically be a DUI when there was no actual impairment at the time of driving.

The decision in Dobson v. McClennen didn’t make either side happy. The defense wanted a ruling that Medical Marijuana Patients were immune from the “per se” version of DUI under § 28–1381(A)(3). On the other hand, the prosecution wanted a ruling that a positive blood test meant an automatic “per se” DUI conviction under § 28–1381(A)(3). The Court rejected both positions and came up with a middle ground that leaves many of the complicated issues surrounding driving after consuming medical marijuana unresolved.

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Arizona DUI Arrest Statistics

In looking back over the last six years of DUI arrest statistics released by the Arizona Governor’s Office on Highway Safety (AGOHS), we see an alarming trend in DUI arrests with Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at the “Extreme” levels, which is 0.15 percent or higher. In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 the average Blood Alcohol Content has been over 0.152 percent. Initial reports released for the first quarter of 2014 are showing relentlessness in this trend. Drinking in excess of the extreme impaired driving laws has evidently become the norm, rather than the exception.

The legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol in Arizona is 0.08 percent. However, a motorist may still be arrested if they are driving under the influence with a BAC lower than 0.08 percent if they are found to be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while “impaired to the slightest degree”.Extreme DUI BAC in Arizona is .015 percent; and Super Extreme BAC is .020 percent or greater.

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Vehicular crime laws in Arizona carry some of the most severe consequences and penalties. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was granted additional funding in October 2012 investigation of vehicular crimes that result in serious and fatal auto crashes. The additional $30,000.00 funding will allow police to spend more time investigating DUI accidents and fatal crashes caused by driver impairment due to alcohol and drugs.

Vehicular Crimes Arizona

A “vehicular crime” can be described as any crime involving use of a vehicle. Driving “impaired to the slightest degree” DUI due to alcohol or drugs. This is the case, even if an accident or injury was not involved.