It has been more than a year since Carol Ann Sacca drove her Toyota the wrong way on Loop 101 in Phoenix, striking an oncoming motorcyclist. The driver of the motorcycle was killed in the crash, which also caused a third driver to crash while attempting to avoid the collision. Both Sacca and the third motorist were injured, but their injuries were described as non-life threatening. Last Friday she was sentenced in Maricopa County Superior Court to 10.5 years in prison and three years of probation.
This is a case where the charges, and the defendant’s plea, evolved over time. Originally, Sacca was charged only with criminal damage and endangerment, although officers at the scene suspected that she was under the influence at the time. After blood tests and statements were given, second degree murder was added to the list.
Sacca told police at the time of the accident that she was on her way to visit her father, and somehow got on the eastbound lane by mistake. She said she looked for an exit, then turned around, driving against the traffic in an effort to get off the highway. The second degree murder charge was supported by blood samples, as well as Sacca’s statement to police that she had taken two prescription medications, including Soma (a muscle relaxant used to treat muscle spasms and pain), and morphine, earlier in the day.
Apparently, a deal was struck, and Sacca eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and endangerment. Manslaughter is covered under A.R.S. 13-1103, and includes recklessly causing the death of another person. It is a class 2 felony. Second degree manslaughter, on the other hand, is a class 1 felony, and if she were convicted of that charge, and received the presumptive sentence, she would potentially be spending around five additional years in prison, compared with the sentence that was handed down last week. Endangerment can be charged as either a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 6 felony, depending upon whether the conduct places another person in imminent risk of death.
This is another example of the fact that you don’t have to drink alcohol in order to be impaired, or to be charged with offenses relating to driving under the influence. Taking prescription drugs, even as prescribed, can lead to a host of criminal charges if you get behind the wheel of a car.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004