In Arizona, a drunken driving charge can turn into an aggravated felony when the driver causes injury to another person. When a DUI charge is raised from a misdemeanor to a felony, a defendant stands to face much stiffer penalties.
Arizona's DUI causing injury offense isn't out of the ordinary, but it does include three elements worth noting:
- Violation of a statute,
- Bodily injury, and
- Proximate causation.
It's important to note that the violation of law must be a statute other than the drunken-driving statute. In most cases, the violation will be a low-level traffic offense like speeding or running a traffic light.
The bodily injury, therefore, must be proximately caused by the violation of the statute. That is to say, the injury was caused in part by the driver's speeding or running of a red light, not just the driver's intoxication.
Prosecutors may be out of luck if there's possibly an independent source of causation. For example, if the drunken driver's passengers weren't wearing seatbelts and that somehow led to the DUI crash, that could negate the causation element.
Still, DUI defendants may have a number of defenses available to use against a felony DUI charge resulting from an injury. These can include standard DUI defenses like not actually being under the influence or a faulty Breathalyzer or blood test, as well as a Miranda violation.
But there's an additional approach that can be used when there's a DUI accident involving an injury. This can include an accident reconstruction expert who can evaluate whether the driver's actions caused the injury.
A reconstruction expert examines a number of factors such the weather, road conditions, damages to the car(s), among other considerations.
A reconstruction report can then be used to counter the police officer's traffic investigation report. DUI cases that result in injury revolve around the causation element.
If you find yourself in a bad situation, talk to an experienced Phoenix DUI lawyer to see what your options are.
- Arizona DUI Laws (FindLaw)
- More Than a DUI: Sentencing Enhancements in Arizona (FindLaw's Phoenix DUI Blog)
- 3 Reasons to Get Your DUI Conviction Expunged (FindLaw's Phoenix DUI Blog)
- How to Get Your License Back After an AZ DUI (FindLaw's Phoenix DUI Blog)