Arizona Vehicular Manslaughter Attorneys
Driving is such a normal part of everyday life that it’s easy to forget how dangerous our vehicles can be. It’s tragic whenever someone dies as a result of a traffic accident, but sometimes one driver is clearly to blame. If so, they might be charged with vehicular manslaughter or manslaughter that occurs specifically when the defendant is operating a motor vehicle. A defendant convicted of vehicular manslaughter will lose so much more than their driving privileges. That person will have to deal with the knowledge that their actions caused someone else to lose their life. All of this comes with the criminal penalties of a vehicular manslaughter conviction, as well as any other criminal charges that may apply, such as DUI. If you or someone you love is facing vehicular manslaughter charges in Arizona, you must move quickly to avoid giving the prosecution the upper hand. Our Arizona defense attorneys are experienced in providing high-quality defense representation for defendants facing a variety of charges, including vehicular manslaughter. To schedule your free phone consultation, call 480-448-9800.
A.R.S. § 13-1103 – Manslaughter
Manslaughter is defined in the state of Arizona by A.R.S. § 13-1103. There are several definitions in this statute, but only some of them will apply in a vehicular situation. One is by “recklessly causing the death of another person,” or when a driver is operating their vehicle so recklessly that it results in someone else’s death. Some definitions of manslaughter involve provocation by the victim, assisting a suicide, and committing murder under coercion. Clearly, these definitions don’t apply to vehicular manslaughter absent very specific facts. Arizona also provides that it is manslaughter if someone knowingly or recklessly causes an injury to a pregnant woman that causes her to lose the pregnancy. A.R.S. § 13-1103 also defines manslaughter as a class 2 felony.
Class 2 Felony Penalties
A class 2 felony is the most serious type of criminal charge in Arizona besides a murder charge. The penalties for any type of felony in Arizona are strict, but a defendant convicted of a class 2 felony in Arizona can expect serious prison time. The penalties for a first-time felony conviction in Arizona are set forth by A.R.S. § 13-702. For a first-offense class 2 felony, the presumptive prison sentence is 5 years. However, the court will have the authority to order the defendant to serve anywhere between 4 and 10 years for a class 2 felony conviction. If there are mitigating factors present, the court has the discretion to issue a prison sentence as low as 3 years. However, if there are aggravating factors, the prison sentence can be increased up to 12.5 years.
The penalties will increase sharply if the defendant has previously been convicted of any prior felonies. The penalties for repeat offenders are set forth by A.R.S. § 13-703. An adult who has previously been convicted of one felony is considered a category two repetitive offender upon their second conviction. Here, the presumptive sentence will increase from 5 years to 9.25 years. The court will have the discretion to order a prison sentence anywhere between 6 and 18.5 years. Mitigating factors can reduce the sentence to as low as 4.5 years, but aggravating factors can increase the sentence to as high as 23 years.
When a defendant is convicted of their third felony, they are considered by the state of Arizona to be a category 3 repetitive offender. The penalties for a class 2 felony as a category 3 repetitive offender are even more staggering. Here, the presumptive sentence is 15.75 years. The court has the authority to order the defendant to serve 14 to 28 years in prison. If there are mitigating factors, the sentence can be reduced to 10.5 years, but if there are aggravating factors, the prison sentence can be increased to 35 years.
There are several consequences a convicted felon will face in Arizona besides a lengthy prison sentence. The fines and other costs associated with a class 2 felony conviction will be at least several thousand dollars. A felony conviction will make it infinitely more difficult to find employment, housing, and other opportunities after being released from prison. The defendant may be released on probation and have inconvenient and burdensome monitoring and requirements to comply with for years, or even the rest of their life. One of the most serious consequences of a felony conviction is the loss of certain civil rights. Convicted felons can’t vote, run for public office, or even purchase or possess a firearm. If the victim’s family brings a civil suit against the defendant and wins, the defendant will likely be in debt for the rest of their life.
Examples Of When A Defendant Might Be Charged With Vehicular Manslaughter
Not everyone who is in a traffic accident resulting in another person’s death will be charged with vehicular manslaughter. There needs to be a certain level of recklessness that doesn’t quite meet the intent standard for murder. For example, if freak weather conditions cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle and collide with a pedestrian, causing death, the driver may not even face criminal charges. Some examples of when prosecutors may find it necessary to charge the driver with vehicular manslaughter include:
- A driver is talking on the phone, speeding, and swerving through lanes, causing an accident resulting in death.
- A driver causes a fatal accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- A driver drives in a threatening manner (e.g., attempting to run someone over) that causes a heart attack or other indirect death
- A driver is engaging in road rage or street racing with one driver and accidentally collides with another driver, resulting in death
- The driver is erratic and causes a fatal accident, whether as a suicide attempt or for some other reason
Defenses To Vehicular Manslaughter Charges
No one wants to even imagine the feeling of facing vehicular manslaughter charges, but it’s necessary to consider potential defenses. Some defenses a defendant facing vehicular manslaughter charges may want to explore include:
- The driver’s conduct didn’t amount to recklessness
- The victim’s injuries were caused or exacerbated by their own driving misconduct, like speeding or failure to use headlights
- The accident was caused while the defendant’s vehicle was borrowed or stolen
- The accident was caused by a sudden emergency, such as the driver having a seizure
Call Our Arizona Defense Team As Soon As Possible After A Deadly Crash Or Vehicular Manslaughter Arrest
Someone who is charged with vehicular manslaughter may not necessarily be arrested at the scene of the accident. The accident may not seem to be caused by recklessness until it is investigated further in depth. Or, the victim may not succumb to their injuries until several days later in the hospital. The time between an accident and being arrested or charged could be crucial to finding evidence that could support the defense before it is lost to the sands of time. At My AZ Lawyers, our attorneys will thoroughly investigate for evidence, interview witnesses, and do whatever it takes to make sure our clients receive zealous advocacy throughout the entire criminal defense process. To learn more with your free consultation, call our firm at 480-448-9800.
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