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What is Vehicular Manslaughter? Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney

Monday / November 9, 2015

Over the weekend, news broke out about an alleged impaired driver who rear-ended a car. Unfortunately, that scenario is pretty typical and I probably hear about it most as an Arizona criminal defense attorney. However, that first impact caused another collision with a truck waiting to make a left-hand turn at the intersection. The male driver and the passenger of the car that was rear-ended both died at the scene, while the suspect and driver of the truck walked away.

While the alleged impaired driver escaped from the scene injury free, he did not escape from criminal charges. The suspect was booked into the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail for investigation of two counts of manslaughter and two counts of endangerment. Prosecutors are saying his charges may be elevated to second-degree murder after officials determine the speed at the time of collision.

What is manslaughter? As an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney I get this question a lot.

Arizona statues say that a person may be guilty of manslaughter if they are guilty of one of the following:

  • Recklessly causing the death of another;
  • Commit murder in the heat of an argument or sudden quarrel;
  • Knowingly assist in another person’s suicide;
  • Knowingly or recklessly causing the death of an unborn child by harming the child’s mother.

Arizona law does not differentiate between manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter though a charge may be referred to as “vehicular manslaughter” if there was a vehicle involved in the reckless death. Common factors that often lead to a vehicular manslaughter charge are a DUI, excessive speed, aggressive driving or racing.

Back to this case, if prosecutors want a guilty verdict for manslaughter they are going to need to prove that the driver was aware (or should have been aware) of the harm he was placing others in and that he consciously disregarded this risk. They will try to convince the judge and the jury that a “reasonable person” would be aware of the risk the defendant placed on others, thus making the defendant “reckless”.

Manslaughter Penalties

Arizona law classifies manslaughter as a class 2 felony. Convictions for class 2 felonies include a minimum sentence of four years in jail, along with fines and rehab programs. If there are aggravated circumstances involved, the sentence could climb as high as 21 years.

Manslaughter charges are extremely serious. Anyone facing them must speak with an Arizona criminal defense attorney on the criminal defense strategies available to them and their case. A criminal defense attorney will be the only one on your side. Looking into the how and why’s of your side of the story.

If you have any questions about manslaughter charges or criminal charges in Arizona, give me a call. I offer free consultations on all criminal charges and cases so you have a no obligation, secure means of getting your questions answered by someone with experience on both the prosecution and defense side of Arizona law.

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