Section 13-1102 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) defines “negligent homicide” as the commission of a criminally negligent act that results in the death of another human being.
The legal elements of “criminal negligence” include: 1) failure to appreciate an unreasonable risk of significant harm or other adverse consequences; or 2) the existence of such circumstances. In such cases, potential risk of harm must be sufficiently high and perceptible enough that failing to recognize and/or rectify it falls grossly short of the legal standard of “reasonable care” that reasonable persons would have taken under identical circumstances.
The legal distinction between Manslaughter and Homicide is very slight. Applicable law defines Manslaughter as “reckless” conduct that grossly deviates from existing norms rather than “negligent” conduct of the same character. Excessive driving speed while not under the influence of any intoxicating substance(s) that causes another individual’s death usually results in the motorist being charged with Vehicular Negligent Homicide instead of Vehicular Manslaughter.
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Negligent Vehicular Homicide Legal Penalties
Per the ARS sections, Negligent Homicide convictions where it was determined that the defendant used no dangerous implement or lethal weapon while operating a motor vehicle fall within the “non-dangerous” Class Four Felony classification. However, a car is almost always charged as a dangerous instrument. If the state offers a “non-dangerous” plea agreement, the minimum penalty for that category of crimes is probation without a jail term, while the maximum allowable penalty is between one (1) year and three and three-fourths (3.75) years in jail or prison. If, however, the defendant is a repeat offender with a criminal history that includes one (1) previous chargeable conviction, then possible prison term may range between two and one-quarter (2.25) to seven and a half (7.5) years in custody. If the defendant’s criminal background includes two (2) previous chargeable convictions, allowable range of prison term increases to a range of six (6) to fifteen (15) years.
In cases where a conviction concludes that the defendant did use a dangerous implement or lethal weapon (such as a car). These fall within the “dangerous” classification of class 4 felonies. A conviction carries a minimum prison term of four (4) years, a maximum prison term of eight (8) years, and a presumed prison term of six (6) years.
Common Legal Defenses to Vehicular Negligent Homicide
Most often, expert accident reconstruction is the primary factor in winning a Vehicular Homicide Negligence case. First, it is essential to demonstrate third-party accident causation. Secondly, your defense attorney must introduce sufficient evidence to exonerate you of legal “negligence.” Arizona law requires prosecutors to meet this legal “negligence” standard by proving that a defendant caused another person’s death by failure to appreciate extraordinary and unprovoked risk of possible event and/or existing circumstance. Such risk must be of a character and extent to have been grossly deviant from standard norms to which reasonable persons conform.
Demonstrating a lack of gross deviation from standard norms of what reasonable persons would have done and/or known is also crucial. A common scenario involves cases wherein a driver struck another vehicle or pedestrian while texting or talking on a cell phone. In addition, if the prosecution alleges that death was due to an accident wholly or partially caused by excessive speed, we have to demonstrate that a reasonable person would not have perceived the rate of speed as excessively dangerous. Vehicle traveling speeds are not criminal offenses unless they exceed posted limits by at least twenty-one (21) miles per hour. If alcohol intoxication is alleged, then we have a professional obligation to advance all possible legal defenses to DUI. Common strategies are discrediting the accuracy of results and/or reliability of testing equipment and/or methods by demonstrating actual or potential error or defect in either or both.
We have an ethical obligation of zealous advocacy to obtain your acquittal of the above-described crime and any related charges. Fulfillment of this overriding duty requires our vigorous assertion of all available legal defenses on your behalf. A common example of one part of our overall strategy is to assert violation of your constitutional “Miranda” rights. Prior judicial rulings have established a legal standard of “voluntariness” to determine if admission of guilt may be used against you in court. We are often able to persuade a judge that police employed improper pressure or deception to extract your confession of guilt. Such an admission of guilt is called an “inculpatory” statement in legal terminology.
Quite often, police do not read mandatory “Miranda” warnings to defendants at time of initial arrest. In those cases, we can persuade a judge to forbid the prosecutor from using any resulting evidence or verbal statements against you. Still another common legal defense strategy is “denial of counsel.” Arrestees have a Constitutional right to have an attorney present during all phases of police questioning. Police may violate this right by continuing to interrogate a suspect who is in custody and has asked to talk with an attorney. Other legal defenses we often assert on behalf of clients are challenging invalid search warrants and/or flawed forensic investigative techniques. Based on any related criminal charge, we may attack the credibility of test results for breath, urine, blood, DNA, or fingerprinting. Finally, another effective defense strategy we employ quite frequently is exposure of carelessly prepared and/or deceptive police reports. Such document deficiencies range from blatant misrepresentation, to inadvertent inaccuracies, to inept crime scene reconstruction or analysis, to faulty photo line-up procedures. An attorney with extensive experience and knowledge of Vehicular Negligent Homicide in Arizona is best qualified for these tedious, difficult, but essential tasks.
Choosing legal representation by a practitioner with the highest possible Martindale-Hubbell® rating of “AV” is very important. Besides lengthy experience in Negligent Homicide, David Michael Cantor is a licensed Vehicular Crimes Attorney in Arizona who has earned professional designation by the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization as a Certified Criminal Law Specialist. Moreover, all associates at his law firm are licensed and registered in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. In fact, most of the attorneys who work for DM Cantor are former prosecutors. To schedule a Free Initial Consultation, click to send us a confidential email or call (602) 737-2812 24 hours a day to reach an attorney.