DUI Manslaughter & Homicide Losing Your Freedom Is Not an Option

Arizona DUI Homicide and Manslaughter Attorneys

Pima County Attorneys for DUI Homicide Charges

In Arizona, impaired driving accidents involving alcohol or drugs (illegal or prescription) that result in injuries are treated as serious crimes, often resulting in felony charges such as aggravated assault or endangerment, carrying mandatory prison time. Individuals who are involved in a fatal accidents involving alcohol or drugs (illegal or prescription) may be charged with crimes ranging from Negligent Homicide to Second Degree Murder. Even if a fatal accident was not your fault, you need to approach your arrest in the same way you would a murder charge, because the potential outcome is the same, and time is of the essence.

Click here to read our guide to the Do's & Don'ts when you are suspected of a DUI.

The team at Nesci & St. Louis includes attorneys with over 40 years of combined experience. Joe St. Louis is both board certified in DUI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense (as authorized by the American Bar Association), and in criminal law by the State Bar of Arizona. Mr. St. Louis has served as lead counsel on numerous homicide cases, including first degree murder cases where the state and federal government were seeking the death penalty (no client he represented is sentenced to death). This depth of experience has taught our attorneys the skills to strategize at each stage of a DUI homicide case — from seeking the suppression of evidence pre-trial to successfully trying a high profile case.

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Arizona Second Degree Murder, Manslaughter & Negligent Homicide Laws

An experienced Tucson DUI homicide attorney can explain to you the consequences of the charges you may face when you are involved in a fatal or serious DUI accident and analyze the defenses available to you. Prosecutors have broad discretion to charge the driver in a fatal accident involving the use of alcohol or drugs with negligent homicide, manslaughter, or even second-degree murder.

The courts consider a motor vehicle to be a dangerous instrument – something readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury – essentially, a deadly weapon. The state must prove the elements of the offense that they charge – that the driver was negligent, reckless, or that the actions occurred “under circumstances displaying an extreme indifference to human life.” While the crimes of manslaughter and second degree murder require proof that the driver was aware of and consciously disregarded a risk that the death would occur, under Arizona law it is not a defense that a driver was too intoxicated to understand the risk he or she posed. Because these statutes define a “person” to include an “unborn child,” homicide charges can be filed if a pregnant woman miscarries even if no other person is killed in the accident.

Penalties for DUI Accidents that Result in Death or Injury

Prison terms for DUI fatalities in Arizona typically range from four to 25 years, including dangerous nature convictions for:

  • Negligent Homicide — 4 - 8 years
  • Manslaughter — 7 - 21 years
  • Second Degree Murder — 10 - 25 years

However, companion charges — such as child endangerment or child abuse — may increase the length of imprisonment that the Arizona courts impose for a conviction. An accident with multiple victims may result in multiple assault or homicide charges.

DUI Manslaughter vs. DUI Negligent Homicide in Arizona

Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) §13-1102 defines “negligent homicide” as causing a person’s death (including an unborn child) through criminal negligence. Negligent homicide is a Class 4 felony. The definition of “criminal negligence” in A.R.S. §13-105(10)(d) is "a person that 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."

By comparison, A.R.S. §13-1103 defines manslaughter as recklessly causing the death of another person, and, as a Class 2 felony, is a more serious offense than negligent homicide. Statute A.R.S. §13-105(10)(c) defines "recklessly" as "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 as risk but who is unaware of such risk solely by reason of voluntary intoxication also acts recklessly with respect to such risk.”

The main difference between “reckless” and “criminally negligent” conduct is whether the person was unaware of the risk that the death would occur, or consciously disregarded the risk that the death would occur. Penalties differ substantially because the maximum sentence of imprisonment that can be imposed in a manslaughter case is 21 years, and maximum penalty for negligent homicide is eight years.

DUI Manslaughter vs. Second Degree Murder DUI in Arizona

The driver in a fatal DUI accident can be charged with second degree murder if they recklessly cause the death of another (including an unborn child) “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life.” What does this phrase mean, and what must the state prove to convict someone of second degree murder instead of manslaughter? Sadly, the answer is that this phrase means whatever a jury decides that it means. The term is not defined by statute, and the court cases reviewing what is required to convict someone of second degree murder have said that there must be evidence that the driver had a greater degree of knowledge of the risk that the death would occur than would be necessary to convict someone of manslaughter, but have not attempted to describe what that evidence would be or what factors the state is required to prove. There is no clear line between what the state must prove to require a defendant to serve 7 to 21 years in prison versus what must be proven to require 10 to 25 years in prison. Obviously, if you are charged with second degree murder, you need to call the attorneys at Nesci & St. Louis immediately to begin aggressively defending against these charges.

Consult with our DUI homicide defense team in Tucson, AZ to begin your hard-hitting defense against DUI manslaughter and homicide charges. Call Nesci & St. Louis at (520) 999-2441 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation.


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