Vehicular Manslaughter in Arizona

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Unlike other states, Arizona has no “vehicular homicide” law to cover unlawful killings related to driving. However, an Arizona resident may be prosecuted according to homicide laws in the state if they cause another person’s death while driving. 

Some common factors that lead to a vehicular manslaughter charge are racing, excessive speed, aggressive driving, and driving under the influence. This is a serious charge that could impact the rest of your life, so seeking legal counsel is wise in the event of a manslaughter accusation. 

What You Need to Know About Manslaughter in Arizona

  • A fatal accident might result in a murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide charge for the at-fault driver.
  • Certain crimes, such as driving under the influence, may also come with a manslaughter charge if your actions cause someone’s death
  • A potential defense for vehicular manslaughter is investigating the methods used by the police to determine fault
  • It’s essential that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible if you’ve been accused of committing manslaughter 

According to Arizona law, a person has committed manslaughter if they’ve recklessly caused another person to die or knowingly assisted in someone else’s suicide. Manslaughter can also mean committing second degree murder in the heat of passion or an unexpected quarrel, and recklessly or knowingly causing an unborn child’s death by injuring the mother. 

Requirements for a Manslaughter Charge

You may get a vehicular manslaughter charge in Arizona if the state believes that you (the driver) recklessly caused another person’s death. It must prove that you were aware or should have known about and decided to disregard the risks involved and did not behave as a “reasonable person” should have in the situation. 

Motor Vehicle-Related Manslaughter Crimes

While there isn’t a specific “vehicular manslaughter” charge in Arizona, certain driving-related violations can lead to a manslaughter charge if they cause another person’s death. Here are some examples: 

Driving Under the Influence 

Arizona law states that a person driving a motorized vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of at least .08 percent may receive a DUI charge. The law is a bit stricter for commercial vehicle drivers and sets the legal limit at .04 percent. You may also receive a DUI charge if a blood test shows that you were under the influence of certain substances. If you caused someone’s death and you’re found guilty of driving under the influence, it may lead to a manslaughter charge. 

Aggressive Driving

Under Arizona law, someone may receive an aggressive driving charge if they operate a vehicle at an unsafe speed and break at least two of these laws:

  • Follow too closely
  • Change lanes in an unsafe way
  • Don’t yield when they are supposed to
  • Fail to follow traffic signs (like a stop sign)
  • Drive in a way that endangers another car or person
  • Pass or overtake another vehicle by driving off the road or pavement

If you get an aggressive driving charge in Arizona and it causes another person’s death, you may also receive a manslaughter conviction.

Excessive Speed

In Arizona, exceeding 35 miles per hour while driving in a school zone, driving faster than 85 in other areas may lead to a manslaughter charge if it causes another person’s death. Similarly, exceeding the speed limit displayed in a residential or business area by 20 mile per hour or more, or at least 45 miles per hour in an area without a posted speed limit can come with a manslaughter conviction if it leads to someone’s death. 

Racing

Any person who engages in an acceleration contest, drag race, speed competition, or racing of any kind on a highway or street may receive a reckless driving charge. If your actions cause another person to die, you may also get manslaughter. 

Penalties for Manslaughter in Arizona 

Arizona law classifies manslaughter as a “dangerous,” class 2 felony, which may result in between 4 and 10 years of prison time. If the crime involved aggravated circumstances, like a BAC of .15 or more, you may get up to 21 years in prison.

Possible Defenses for Vehicular Manslaughter

If you’ve received a manslaughter charge, proving that you weren’t reckless and didn’t ignore the risks involved in your actions could be a valid defense. One method for accomplishing this is investigative techniques that explore how the police determined your driving speed or how closely they followed alcohol testing protocol. Other potential defense methods are checking whether you were coerced to confess to a crime or received your Miranda Rights. If you’ve been accused of vehicular manslaughter, speaking with a skilled criminal defense attorney is essential.

FAQ on Manslaughter and Related Crimes in Arizona

Here are some commonly asked questions regarding manslaughter and similar offenses:

Q: How does negligent homicide differ from manslaughter?

While they’re similar crimes, negligent homicide and manslaughter aren’t the same. However, a “negligence” standard has to do with a deviation from an expected standard of care, while manslaughter applies a “recklessness” standard.

Q: What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

Both murder and manslaughter involve death, but the crimes are completely different. Murder crimes are split into two types: first and second-degree murder. A person has committed first-degree murder when they take someone else’s life in an intentional and premeditated way. Second-degree murder also involves intentionally killing another, just without the premeditation element (spontaneously). 

Manslaughter, on the other hand, means knowingly or intentionally killing someone in the heat of passion, intentionally killing someone under force, recklessly causing death, intentionally helping someone commit suicide, and causing the death of a fetus by hurting the mother. 

Q: What are some other examples of manslaughter crimes?

Handling a firearm recklessly could lead to a manslaughter charge if the gun goes off and unintentionally kills someone. In other cases, someone may leave a baby on their own in a bathtub, which accidentally leads to the child’s death. As mentioned, manslaughter charges may also be related to driving, such as a DUI crime that kills another person. 

What to Do if You’re Facing Charges

Taking someone’s life is the most serious crime of all, whether it’s a manslaughter or murder charge. It’s essential that you have an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side at this time.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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