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Vehicular Manslaughter in Arizona

Vehicular Manslaughter in Arizona

Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) §13-1103 states that a person may be guilty of manslaughter if they:

  • Recklessly cause the death of another;
  • Commit second degree murder in a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion;
  • Knowingly assist in another person’s suicide;
  • Knowingly or recklessly causing the death of an unborn child by physically injuring the child’s mother.

A charge of vehicular manslaughter in Arizona, although the state does not differentiate between vehicular and other types of manslaughter, may occur if the state believes that the driver of a vehicle recklessly caused the death of another in some way. Factors that could lead to a vehicular manslaughter charge in the state include:

In order for the state to prove that someone committed manslaughter, they must first prove that the person was aware, or should have been aware, and consciously disregards the significant, unjustifiable risks, and that they deviated from the behavior a “reasonable person” would observe in that same situation. In other words, the actions must clearly put people at risk, the person who caused the death has to be aware of the risk, and the action must be something that the average person would not be willing to take due to the possibility of injury and/or death.

Watch this video by David Michael Cantor who explains Vehicular Manslaughter charges in Arizona:

Manslaughter Charges Related to Motor Vehicles

Although there is not a specific charge for vehicular manslaughter in Arizona, there are certain traffic violations that, when they lead to the death of another person, may result in a manslaughter charge against a driver. In order for the state to charge a driver with manslaughter, certain criteria must be met by the state, and they are different for each violation.

Arizona DUI

A.R.S. Chapter 4 §28-1381 states that anyone driving or having actual physical control of a motorized vehicle, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher may be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI). For drivers of commercial vehicles, the BAC must be higher than 0.04 percent. A driver may also be charged with DUI if blood tests reveal the presence of any drug identified in A.R.S. §13-3401 as illegal, unless prescribed by a doctor. Any death caused by someone who is found guilty of DUI may be charged with manslaughter in Arizona.

Excessive Speed

A.R.S. §28-701.02 says that drivers may be charged with manslaughter after the death of another if they are:

  • Exceeding 35 miles per hour in a school zone;
  • Exceeding the posted speed limit in a business or residential area by more than 20 miles per hour, if a speed limit is posted, or 45 miles per hour if a speed limit is not posted
  • Exceed 85 miles per hour in any other areas

Aggressive Driving

In Arizona, a person may be charged with aggressive driving if they drive at an unsafe speed and violate two or more of the following traffic laws:

  • Fail to obey traffic control devices, such as stop signs;
  • Overtake or pass another vehicle on the right by driving off pavement or main traveled portions of the roadway;
  • Make an unsafe lane change;
  • Follow to closely;
  • Fail to yield the right-of-way;
  • Engage in driving that endangers another person or vehicle

Any person who is convicted of aggressive driving in Arizona that results in the death of someone else can be charged with manslaughter.


Anyone who engages in any racing, speed competition, drag race, acceleration contest or any other form of speed exhibition on a street or highway may be charged with reckless driving. If someone dies as a result of those actions, a manslaughter charge may also be filed.

Manslaughter Penalties

In Arizona, manslaughter is considered a Class 2 “Dangerous” Felony, and the conviction carries a minimum sentence of four years and a maximum of ten years in jail. If there are aggravated circumstances involved, such as a conviction for Extreme DUI (a BAC of 0.15 or higher), the minimum sentence could be 10.5 to 21 years.

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Defenses to Vehicular Manslaughter

For those charged with manslaughter in Arizona, the first steps in defending them against the charge is extensive accident reconstruction. Engineers may check the cars for vehicle defects that may have caused the accident, shifting the blame from the defendant. In order to defend against the charge, it must be proven that the defendant was not reckless, and that they did not ignore any substantial or unjustifiable risk that existed due to their actions. This is accomplished using investigative techniques that explore methods used by the police to determine speeds or how strictly they followed required blood and alcohol testing protocols. Other methods used are challenging whether a defendant properly received their Miranda Rights, whether a confession was coerced or the defendant was denied the right to counsel, which often happens in DUI related cases.

If you or a loved one is facing a vehicular manslaughter charge in Arizona, contact our offices today online or by phone to see how we can help. You will need an aggressive defense attorney on your side to fight Manslaughter charges in Arizona. Call us at (602) 0307-0808 to get a Free Case Review or send us an email by using our confidential web form.

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