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Negligent Homicide in Arizona

Negligent Homicide in Arizona

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Whether in the Phoenix area, or anywhere in Arizona, per A.R.S. §13-1102 “Negligent Homicide” occurs when a person commits an act of criminal negligence which causes the death of another person.

“Criminal negligence” means the following: with respect to the result, or to a circumstance, a person fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk the result will occur, or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

A charge of Negligent Homicide is very similar to Manslaughter; however, Manslaughter is a “recklessness” standard which requires a gross deviation from a standard of conduct verses a “negligence” standard involving a gross deviation from a standard of care. Speed, without the presence of alcohol or drugs, is what normally pushes a prosecutor to charge Vehicular Negligent Homicide rather than Vehicular Manslaughter.

If you have been charged with Negligent Homicide (Vehicular), call our offices at 602-307-0808 or click here to fill out our contact form for a Free Consultation. We are available at any time, day or night.


Possible Punishments for Vehicular Negligent Homicide

If convicted of a Negligent Homicide that did not involve the use of a dangerous instrument (i.e., if the jury determines the car was not a dangerous instrument) or deadly weapon, then the crime is classified as a “non-dangerous” Class 4 felony. Potential punishments include the following:

  • Probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of one (1) year to 3.75 years in custody.
  • If the defendant has one (1) historical allegeable prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is 2.25 to 7.5 years of incarceration.
  • If the person has two (2) historical allegeable prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is 6 to fifteen 15 years in prison.

If the jury determines there was a dangerous instrument (i.e., the car) or deadly weapon used, then the crime is categorized as Class four (4) “Dangerous” felony which carries a minimum of 4 years in prison; 6 years presumptive in prison; and 8 years maximum in prison.


Possible Defenses for Vehicular Negligent Homicide

The key to defending a vehicular Negligent Homicide charge normally lays within a proper accident reconstruction. It will be important to show that, first and foremost, the accident was the other person’s fault. In addition, it must be shown that the defendant was not “negligent”. The standard of “negligence” in Arizona is a person fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk the result will occur, or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

The key is demonstrating that the defendant’s failure to understand the risks of his behavior was not a gross deviation from what a reasonable person would have known (i.e. merely texting).  If the prosecutor is claiming that speed was a factor in causing the accident, then we must show that the defendant was not traveling at a speed that a reasonable person would have thought was dangerous. Speeding does not become criminal, by statute, until it exceeds twenty-one (21) miles or more over the posted speed limit. If alcohol was a factor, then we must utilize all of the standard DUI defenses to show that breath / blood testing devices were inaccurate in their measurements. Lastly, we would use an engineer to check the car for any vehicle defects which may have caused the accident, instead of the defendant’s actions.

In order to fight this Vehicular Negligent Homicide charge, and any other criminal charges that you might face, as your attorneys we would assert a number of various other defenses designed to protect your constitutional rights. One of those we frequently assert is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Arizona, the standard of whether any inculpatory statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements.

In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their Attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any forensic flaws during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; ballistics; gunshot residue testing; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc.

Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled Vehicular Negligent Homicide Defense Lawyer to defend you, who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.

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