Some people still consider DUI a relatively minor offense. Maybe because for a first-time DUI, the charge is usually a misdemeanor. Whatever you might believe about the seriousness of drunk or drugged driving, a recent event in Tempe might well change your thinking.
A Phoenix man was driving his pickup truck this past Saturday night, and was making a left turn. Police say he failed to yield to oncoming traffic, which resulted in a collision with a car traveling in the opposite direction. The driver of the pickup was not injured, but the driver of the other car was taken to a local hospital, where she died from her injuries. Two passengers in her vehicle were seriously injured. The driver of the pickup truck was arrested for DUI at the scene, and allegedly had a BAC of 0.11, which is over the legal limit.
According to the police, the driver accused of DUI said he had one vodka drink prior to the accident, and was talking on his cell phone when the accident occurred. The charges against the driver now include DUI, manslaughter, and aggravated assault.
In Arizona, there is no specific statute known as DUI manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, or vehicular assault. The charge when someone is killed or seriously injured in a car accident where DUI is suspected is usually based on an allegation of recklessness.
Under A.R.S. 13-1103A1, recklessly causing another person’s death is considered manslaughter. And aggravated assault, a felony, includes recklessly causing injury to another person using a “dangerous instrument,” in this case an automobile. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs may be considered reckless in and of itself. There is no requirement that that the defendant actually drive in a reckless manner. On the other hand, whether the charge is aggravated assault or manslaughter, the law requires proof that the defendant’s actions caused the injury or the death. Merely being intoxicated is not enough for a conviction.
In any event, driving after a consuming a few drinks may not sound like a big deal, but take a look at what happened in this case. The man was over the legal limit, and ended up in a fatal collision. Whatever happens in the case, neither his life, nor the lives of the occupants of the other vehicles, their families and friends, will ever be the same.
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