vehicular homicide lawyer phoenix

At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, our diversity gives us the experience and knowledge necessary to understand our clients’ needs better. We strive to provide only the best criminal defense in Phoenix for every defendant. It’s important to understand not only the vehicular homicide Arizona laws but also case precedent concerning this topic. If you’ve been charged with vehicular homicide in Arizona, we’re here for you.

It’s important to find a Phoenix criminal defense attorney who will never waver in your defense. With our experience and knowledge of relevant laws, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting the best possible defense. For more information about our criminal defense services, please call 602-910-4040 to schedule a consultation with us.

Have You Been Charged With Vehicular Homicide in Arizona?

Facing criminal charges of any kind can greatly affect your future, even if you’re completely innocent. Facing very serious charges such as homicide or manslaughter is even worse for one’s reputation. If you need a strong defense against such charges, an experienced criminal defense attorney from YMALG is here for you.

When you establish an attorney-client relationship with us, we keep any confidential or sensitive information you give us completely private. Criminal defense lawyers must serve clients and uphold privacy standards throughout their case, from start to finish. If you’re staring down the barrel of a possible vehicular manslaughter conviction, you need an attorney with experience in vehicular manslaughter cases. Contact YMALG today for only the best in criminal defense. You can also fill out our online intake form.

What Is Vehicular Homicide?

vehicular homicide attorney phoenix

In Arizona, a person can be charged with vehicular homicide if they cause a car accident that results in the death of another person. Unfortunately, many people facing a vehicular homicide conviction never intended to cause harm, let alone death. Additionally, state laws in Arizona treat those charged with vehicular homicide similarly to those charged with murder. This means that the potential sentence for the crime can be staggering.

In Arizona, vehicular manslaughter is the most frequently charged offense in these cases. However, there are other classifications to be aware of, which we list below.

  • First Degree Vehicular Homicide
  • Second Degree Vehicular Homicide
  • Vehicular Negligent Homicide
  • Vehicular Manslaughter
  • Gross Vehicular Manslaughter

Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in Arizona

Depending on your case’s circumstances, a person convicted of vehicular homicide could face the following penalties.

  • Vehicular negligent homicide: This is a Class 4 Felony. A person convicted faces one year to three years and nine months in prison and fines up to $150,000.
  • Vehicular manslaughter: This is a Class 2 Felony. A manslaughter charge carries three to 12 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
  • Second-degree vehicular homicide: A second-degree vehicular homicide conviction is a Class 1 Felony. Under normal circumstances, a conviction means ten to 25 years in prison and fines up to $150,000. If the victim was a minor under 12 years old, the defendant could face life in prison.

It is also important to recognize aggravating factors resulting in harsher penalties. For example, if an intoxicated driver has a blood-alcohol level of .15% or higher, this could increase the length of prison time.

Defenses to Vehicular Homicide Charges in Arizona

defenses to vehicular homicide charges

A good defense attorney will have many possible defenses for your cases. These defenses will either seek to show your innocence or get your charges reduced, depending on the facts of your case. Below, we list the possible defenses to vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter.

This is a popular defense against vehicular homicide charges. The main argument here is that your actions did not actually cause the victim’s death. Examples include mechanical defects of your vehicle, road defects, poor road signage, and much more.

Otherwise known as “superseding intervening cause,” this involves unforeseeable events that could have caused the death of another person. In all criminal cases, the prosecution has the burden of proof to show that your actions directly caused the other person’s death. If an unforeseeable event occurred, the jury would be notified that the prosecution must prove your culpability beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Sometimes, superseding intervening causes can be complicated with respect to traffic laws in Arizona. For example, your attorney may not use the victim’s lack of wearing a seatbelt or helmet as a superseding intervening event. This is because Arizona law explicitly states that drivers must understand that the other driver may not adhere to all safety recommendations and requirements.

It is also possible to challenge the evidence that the state presents against you. There are a number of ways in which your attorney can accomplish this, including the following.

  • There could be flaws in the state’s reconstruction of how the accident happened. Your attorney will cross-examine the state’s experts and witnesses or hire their own accident reconstruction expert. If there are inconsistencies, they will challenge the evidence of the state.
  • If the state claims that you were over the legal limit for alcohol or that you were under the influence of drugs, you can challenge the state’s evidence. Sometimes, the police conduct poor DUI investigations or have unreliable equipment. Independent forensic experts can aid in challenging both the evidence and the behavior of the arresting police officer.
  • Lastly, the state’s eyewitness testimony could be unreliable. Multiple research papers have found eyewitness testimony to be an unreliable source of evidence. Therefore, if the state’s case relies heavily on eyewitness testimony, your attorney can cross-examine those witnesses.

It is also possible to uncover procedural errors or to file certain legal motions to help your case. Below, we list potential procedural and legal challenges which could be beneficial to you.

  • Miranda rights violation: In every single criminal case, it is imperative to confirm that the police read you your Miranda rights before proceeding to question you. If they failed to do this, then you can bar the prosecution from using your own statements against you.
  • Violation of the right to counsel: Every criminal defendant in the United States has a right to an attorney. If you notify the police that you want an attorney and they fail to provide one to you, certain evidence could be thrown out. You could also have your case dismissed altogether. This depends largely on how your lack of counsel directly impacted your case.
  • Illegal search and seizure: Let’s say that police obtained a sample of your blood for testing without first obtaining a warrant. You and your attorney can fight for this evidence and any other illegally-obtained evidence to be thrown out.

Types of Vehicular Homicide

There are a multitude of different types of vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter. We list these and their requirements below.

  • Vehicular manslaughter: Even though this is not the most serious form, it is the most common vehicular homicide charge in Arizona. A conviction requires the state to prove that your reckless driving caused a fatal accident.
  • Second-degree vehicular homicide: This is a more serious charge and is the second most common type of related charge in Arizona. The prosecution must prove three elements for a conviction: you caused another person’s death, you engaged in conduct that involved a grave risk of death, and the circumstances manifested extreme indifference to human life.
  • Vehicular negligent homicide: This is the least severe charge but is still a very serious charge to face. The prosecution needs to prove that you caused another person’s death and that you did not recognize a substantial or unjustifiable risk of death to another person.
  • First-degree vehicular felony murder: This is the most serious vehicular homicide charge in the state of Arizona. You might assume that this means you planned and intended to murder someone with your car. However, the most common way that the prosecution brings this charge is through vehicular felony murder. The prosecution must prove that in your unlawful flight from law enforcement, you caused the death of another person.

Felony Vehicular Homicide

It’s important to recognize what kind of felony a vehicular homicide charge is when defending your case. Below, we list the types of charges and their respective felony offenses.

  • Vehicular manslaughter: Class 2 Dangerous Felony
  • Second-degree vehicular homicide: Class 1 Dangerous Felony
  • Vehicular negligent homicide: Class 4 Dangerous Felony
  • First-degree vehicular felony murder: Class 1 Dangerous Felony

What Is the Difference Between Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Manslaughter?

Homicides involve the illegal killing of another individual. The differences between negligent homicide, manslaughter, and second-degree murder in motor vehicle cases depend heavily on the state of mind of the defendant. Below, we include the specifics of the three types.

  • Vehicular negligent homicide: Defendants who were driving in a criminally negligent manner could face this charge. Criminal negligence involves unknowingly engaging in actions that create a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others. 
  • Vehicular manslaughter: If a motorist kills another person while engaging in reckless driving, they could face a vehicular manslaughter charge. The main difference between this and negligent homicide is the knowledge of the defendant. If they knew they were doing something that posed a significant and unjustifiable risk to others, they could face manslaughter charges.
  • Vehicular second-degree felony murder: One can commit second-degree murder if their reckless manner creates a grave risk of death to another person. For a conviction, prosecutors must also prove that the defendant showed an extreme and reckless disregard for human life. 

Can a Non-Driver Be Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter?

Because Arizona statutes do not differentiate between manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter, this is a difficult question. However, ARS 13-1103 states that the driver faces charges if they commit manslaughter by vehicle. It does not explicitly cover whether or not non-drivers can be guilty of vehicular homicide or manslaughter. 

Driving That Results in Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

You may be wondering what exactly constitutes behavior that could result in manslaughter charges. There are several different behaviors that typically result in these criminal charges in Arizona, which we list below.

Many Phoenix personal injury accidents occur due to tired or drowsy drivers falling asleep at the wheel. If a driver falls asleep at the wheel and another person dies as a result of the accident, they do not automatically face criminal charges. However, if the prosecution can prove that they acted recklessly or negligently behind the wheel, they likely have a case.

Breaking a state’s motor vehicle laws, ignoring safety statutes, or acting in a grossly negligent manner can also bring about manslaughter charges. Again, this is not always automatic, but it is important to speak with an attorney about your defense options.

If a prosecutor can prove that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at the wheel, they can prove reckless or negligent driving. This even applies to drivers who are using prescription medications that cause side effects that could impact their driving. 

Gross negligence while driving that leads to a fatal auto accident could result in charges. Generally, negligent driving involves operating a vehicle in an unlawful manner or in such a way that lacks the appropriate standard of care for roadways.

Let’s say a defendant engaged in gross negligence by having a blood alcohol content higher than the legal limit, breaking the speed limit excessively, and failing to follow traffic signals. All of these factors combined would likely result in a much harsher penalty than one of these elements alone. Many states describe these aggravating factors as “criminal negligence.”

What Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Do for You?

vehicular homicide arizona

The first thing you should do while facing criminal charges for unintentionally causing the death of another person is to get an attorney. Attorneys are well-equipped to examine the facts of your case and defend you in a court of law. Having experienced representation against the state is imperative in any criminal case, especially those involving death. If you need representation, reach out to a Phoenix law firm immediately.

Call Ybarra Maldonado Law Group Today

At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, we let our experience and determination speak for us. Both in and out of the courtroom, we fight tooth and nail on behalf of our clients. We believe in innocence until proven guilty, and that’s exactly what we base our defenses on. While the principle is simple, its history and importance are invaluable. We represent defendants facing a multitude of different charges, including homicide, sex crimes, domestic violence charges, and much more. For more information about how we can help, please call 602-910-4040 today.

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