There is no doubt that driving under the influence is dangerous. The risk of a car accident increases tremendously when someone is impaired by alcohol or drugs, which is why Payson prosecutors are tough on DUI cases involving accidents. While a DUI offense is most commonly a class 1 misdemeanor, if it involves an accident where someone is killed or injured, a person is often charged with a felony. Types of Payton DUI accident charges depend on the circumstances surrounding the crash and may include:
Endangerment, Aggravated Assault, Manslaughter and Second-Degree Murder may be charged in DUI cases involving a collision. While Payson only has a population of around 15,000 residents, it still sees a significant amount of alcohol-related accidents every year.
A felony charge involving a car accident is also often charged as a “Dangerous” offense in Arizona because a vehicle is considered readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. If convicted of a dangerous felony offense, a person must be sentenced to time in prison; probation is not available as a punishment for a dangerous felony conviction.
The amount of potential prison time for a felony charge stemming from a DUI involving an accident is dependent on many case specifics, such as the type of charge, the age of the victim, whether there is a “Dangerous” allegation or whether the person has prior felony convictions.
The short answer is yes. Many people who are arrested for DUI are shocked when they look at their paperwork and realize that they were charged with Endangerment in addition to the DUI charges. The confusion often comes from the fact that no one was injured as a result of the person’s driving under the influence.
In Arizona, a person can be charged with Endangerment if they recklessly endanger another person with a substantial risk of imminent death or physical injury. If you are charged with Endangerment due to a substantial risk of imminent death, that is considered a class 6 felony. If the offense is charged due to a substantial risk of physical injury, then it will be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor.
The punishment for Endangerment varies based on how it is charged. If charged as a class 1 misdemeanor, the punishment may include up to 180 days in jail, up to three years of probation and a fine of up to $2500. If charged as a class 6 felony, the punishment for Endangerment may include from 4 months to 2 years of prison, up to three years of probation, a fine of up to $150,000, and a 1-year license revocation. This range of potential penalties is for first time offenders; the range of penalties increases for people that have prior felony convictions. Additionally, if a person is convicted of Endangerment as a class 6 felony and it is classified as a Dangerous offense, they will be sentenced to prison for a range of 1.5 to 3 years, without the possibility of probation.
It is very common for a person to be charged with Aggravated Assault if they cause a serious physical injury to someone because of a DUI-related car accident. This is typically charged as a class 3 dangerous felony. That means that if you are convicted as charged, you face a mandatory prison sentence ranging from 5 to 15 years—even if you are a first-time offender with no prior criminal history or traffic violations. Additionally, you face a 3-year driver’s license revocation.
If you are involved in a car accident and the police took a blood sample or you completed a breath test, you should contact a lawyer immediately. In these situations, due to the chaos involved in a car accident, DUI investigation and subsequent arrest, many people are unaware if anyone was injured in the accident. Further, you may have been taken to the hospital for injuries that you sustained, with a nurse taking your blood and providing a sample to law enforcement.
In many cases, the police contact the other people involved in the accident to determine whether they have any serious injuries as a result of the collision. Some internal injuries may not be immediately apparent and testing your blood for alcohol or drugs can take months, so just because you were not charged with Aggravated Assault on the date of the incident does not mean that charges are not coming. By contacting a lawyer right away, you can make sure that your rights are protected.
Without question, a DUI accident in Payson that turns lethal is everyone’s worst nightmare. These cases are most often charged as Manslaughter in Arizona. However, in some circumstances they may be charged as Second-Degree Murder if a person manifesting extreme indifference to human life recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death and in fact causes the death of another person. This is a class 2 felony punishable by a range of prison from 10 to 25 years.
The more commonly charged vehicular Manslaughter does not require an “extreme indifference to human life.” Rather, it only requires a showing that a person recklessly caused the death of another person. In the context of vehicular Manslaughter, “recklessly” means that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a death may occur. In a situation where DUI is involved, unawareness of the risk of death because one’s voluntary intoxication is not a defense.
Vehicular Manslaughter is a class 2 dangerous felony punishable by a range of prison from 7 to 21 years for a first-time offender.
If you are involved in an accident involving the death of another driver, you should immediately seek legal representation. In the days, weeks and months after the accident it is important to make sure that any possible exculpatory evidence is documented and preserved. This is evidence that may point toward your innocence. In these cases, it is often necessary to work with experts in forensic toxicology, accident reconstruction, and medicine.
An aggressive yet methodical approach may lead to defenses based on a lack of impairment, a supervening cause of death or a violation of your constitutional rights. These cases are very complex, so there are countless seemingly small errors that may be made during an investigation that can lead to serious problems with the state’s evidence. A knowledgeable attorney is your best line of defense.
If you are arrested or charged with a DUI and a car accident was involved, it is important to contact an experienced Payson DUI and criminal defense attorney immediately. Even if you are unaware of any injuries or if you were only cited for the DUI on the date of the incident, that does not mean that a felony case will not be charged in the future. The assistance of an attorney early on in your case will help protect your rights and ensure that your case is being handled properly. Contact the Rosenstein Law Group at 480-248-7666 or online to schedule a free consultation and preliminary case evaluation.