Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs that cause impairment is illegal in Arizona, even including recreational marijuana. These Arizona DUI laws are taken seriously because driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs increases the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.
While most DUIs are Class 1 misdemeanors under ARS 12-1381, you can be charged with a felony DUI if you cause an accident in which someone is injured or killed while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you face DUI car accident charges, you should consult an experienced Arizona DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Potential Types of Charges for a DUI Car Accident
If you cause a drunk driving accident, you might face the following types of charges, depending on the circumstances:
- Endangerment under ARS 13-1201
- DUI aggravated assault under ARS 13-1204
- DUI negligent homicide under ARS 13-1102
- Vehicular manslaughter under ARS 13-1103
- Second-degree murder under ARS 13-1104
Endangerment can be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor; however, it can also be charged as a Class 6 felony when you are alleged to have placed someone else at imminent risk of serious injury or death. This means that you could face felony endangerment charges if you have a single-car accident with a passenger, even if no one was seriously injured, based on the risk of serious injury or death.
Following DUI accidents, aggravated assault, negligent homicide, vehicular manslaughter, and second-degree murder charges are felony offenses carrying lengthy prison sentences.
If you caused a DUI car accident in which someone was seriously injured or killed, you would likely face one or more of these types of charges in addition to your DUI charge. Since vehicles can be considered dangerous weapons in criminal charges involving DUI accidents, the cases can be classified as dangerous felony offenses.
In Arizona, a dangerous felony conviction requires a mandatory prison sentence without the option of probation.
How much prison time you might face for a felony charge following a drunk driving accident will depend on multiple factors. These factors include the specific offense of which you are convicted, the victim’s age, whether you have prior felony convictions, and whether the prosecutor alleged the offense as a dangerous felony.
Blood Alcohol Concentration Levels in Arizona
Arizona has threshold levels for DUIs. If you are involved in any type of DUI car accident, including a DUI single-car accident, the police might ask for a blood or breath sample if they suspect you might be under the influence.
If your blood alcohol concentration exceeds a threshold, it can impact whether you are charged with a DUI and which type.
The threshold BACs are listed in the table below.
|Per se DUI threshold BAC||CDL DUI threshold BAC||Extreme DUI threshold BAC||Super-extreme DUI threshold BAC|
|0.08 to 0.149 BAC||0.04 BAC||0.15 BAC||0.20 BAC|
If you are a minor or were driving a public transportation vehicle, such as a school bus, and caused a DUI accident, you could face charges if you had any amount of alcohol in your system.
DUI Car Accident and Endangerment
If you are involved in a first-time DUI with an accident while under the influence when no one was injured, including a single-car accident with a passenger in your vehicle, you could be charged with DUI and endangerment. Endangerment can be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony.
However, endangerment is charged as a felony in many DUI accident cases. A felony endangerment conviction can result in a prison sentence of four months up to two years, a fine of up to $150,000, and a three-year probation term.
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What Does DUI with Injury Mean?
If you caused an injury accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could face aggravated assault charges. Aggravated assault can be charged under ARS 13-1204 whenever you cause an accident that injures someone since a car is considered a dangerous instrument when used in such a way that it is capable of causing serious injuries or death under ARS 13-105 (12). This crime can also be charged as a dangerous offense.
If you are charged with DUI aggravated assault as a dangerous offense, you could face from seven to 21 years in prison as a Class 2 felony. If you are charged with aggravated assault based on a temporary impairment or disfigurement as a dangerous offense, it is a Class 3 felony carrying from five to 15 years in prison.
DUI Car Accident Resulting in Death
You can face several charges for a drunk driving accident resulting in death in Arizona. All of the potential charges you might face are felony offenses.
You can be charged with a serious felony offense whenever someone dies in a DUI car accident, including unborn babies.
The type of charge you might face will be based on the circumstances.
Negligent Homicide for a DUI Car Accident Resulting in Death
Negligent homicide can be charged if you were criminally negligent while operating your vehicle and caused someone else’s death. This offense is a Class 4 felony in Arizona. Criminal negligence is when you do not perceive the substantial, unjustifiable risk of what might happen under the circumstances. The penalties for negligent homicide include from one to 3.75 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
Manslaughter Charges for a DUI Car Accident Resulting in Death
If your actions are deemed reckless in a drunk driving accident that resulted in someone else’s death, you can be charged with DUI vehicular manslaughter. This is a Class 2 felony and is more serious than a negligent homicide charge.
The potential penalties for a Class 2 felony range from a mitigated three years up to an aggravated 12.5 years. However, if you are convicted of a dangerous felony, you could face a mandatory minimum of seven years up to 21 years in prison.
Second-Degree Murder Charges for a DUI Car Accident Causing Death
You can be charged with second-degree murder for a drunk driving accident resulting in death when you acted recklessly in such a way that you created a significant risk that would subsequently kill another person. The prosecutor would need to prove that you showed extreme indifference to life.
Second-degree murder is a Class 1 felony with a potential sentence range of mandatory prison from a mitigated sentence of 10 years up to an aggravated sentence of 25 years. However, if the victim was younger than age 12, they could face up to life in prison.
Defenses to DUI Accident Cases
DUI accident charges are serious. However, it is still possible to defend against them even if someone was injured or killed. Your attorney will review the facts and evidence to identify potential defenses. If you were charged with a simple misdemeanor while under the influence of marijuana, there are ways to defend against the charges, and if convicted, even file for a marijuana expungement and sealed record.
Some possible defenses include the following:
- You were not at fault for causing the accident.
- The police or prosecutor engaged in misconduct.
- You were not driving, operating, or in actual physical control of your vehicle at the time of the accident.
- You were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- The breathalyzer or blood test results were inaccurate.
- The breathalyzer was administered improperly.
- There was a problem in the chain of custody for blood test results.
Speak to an Experienced Phoenix DUI Accident Lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges following a DUI accident, you should seek legal help immediately. The potential consequences can be very severe and result in a lengthy prison sentence. An experienced criminal defense attorney can review the evidence in your case and work to build the strongest possible defense strategy.