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Vehicular Homicide in Arizona

(Last Updated On: October 23, 2018)

Arizona and Vehicular Homicide

Many states have specific laws for homicides involving a vehicle, and there is usually a separate set of regulations and penalties for vehicular homicide.

Vehicular manslaughter is defined as a crime that causes the death of a human being due to illegal driving of an automobile, including gross negligence, drunk driving, reckless driving or speeding.

Depending on the circumstances, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.


What are the Criminal Charges

Arizona is one of four states that does not have specific or separate criminal charges for drunk driving accidents that result in the death of someone.

They are treated as intentional crimes that carry the same penalties as any other homicide or assault charge.

If a person driving under the influence if found guilty of causing another person’s death while under the influence, they can find themselves facing a charge under one of three categories:

  1. Negligent Homicide
  2. Manslaughter
  3. Second Degree Murder


Negligent Homicide

This kind of charge is one of the most favorable.

The penalties for this charge are significantly lower than the other two, but it is a class 4 felony and holds a minimum jail sentence of one year with a potential time in jail of 8 years.

In order to prove negligent homicide, the key element is proof that the person being charged acted out of criminal negligence and the act resulted in the victim’s death.

Criminal negligence refers to the state of mind that the person was in at the time of the accident and the suspect’s intention (or lack thereof) to cause harm (i.e. carelessness, lack of attention or willful blindness).

In the case of  DUI, the person being charged is thought to have been disregarding of the laws against drinking and driving as killed someone accidentally as a result.

The defense needs to prove that their client was negligently unaware of the risks of driving under the influence at the time of the accident.

In Arizona, someone can also be charged with negligent homicide if their impaired driving resulted in the death of an unborn child.



The key element in a manslaughter charge is recklessness, which refers to any conduct expected to put others in the danger of injury or death.

In manslaughter cases, death is confirmed to not be the intention of the defendant, but their actions were performed with the knowledge and intention of causing harm to another person (i.e. a fistfight that unintentionally caused fatal injury to one of the participants, the death of an unborn child by causing harm to the mother – such as killing someone when driving under the influence).

Many DUI fatalities result in manslaughter charges because drunk driving is considered to be a reckless act expected to put others in danger.

Drunk driving involves a danger to the driver and those surrounding them.

In Arizona, manslaughter is a class 2 felony, punishable with a minimum sentence of 7 years in prison, with a maximum of 21 years.

It is the specific factors of the case that determine the severity of the sentence one will receive under a manslaughter charge.

The higher the BAC level recorded at the time of the accident, the longer the jail sentence will usually be.


Second Degree Murder

Second degree murder is a class 1 felony in Arizona and may be punishable by 10-22 years in prison.

Second degree murder involves the death of someone without premeditation, but with the intent to kill.

The individual that is being charged was fully aware that their actions would cause death to the victim, but may have not been intending the kill the victim until the moment of the incident.

If there is substantial proof that the intentions of the drunk driver were to cause death, the court could decide on a class 1 felony charge.

In many cases, second degree murder involves a Super Extreme DUI in Arizona.

In any Arizona drunk driving case, it is incredibly important to have an experienced DUI attorney on your side.

If you have been charged with a crime call the Thrush Law Group in Phoenix or Tucson to speak to a qualified DUI lawyer immediately.

Posted in Arizona DUI Law.


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