Whether in the Phoenix area, or anywhere in Arizona, per A.R.S. §13-1104 Vehicular Second-Degree Murder can occur in three ways, all requiring the absence of premeditation (meaning you didn’t plan it in advance):
- A person intentionally causes the death of another person;
- Knowing that his conduct will cause the death or serious physical injury, and such person does cause the death of another person;
- Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, a person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person.
In the Vehicular Crime setting, Second Degree Murder is normally not charged. In order for it to be charged, there must be a showing of “extreme indifference” to human life. Some examples typically charged with this crime are drag racing through traffic on the freeway, traveling the wrong way on a freeway while fleeing from police, and road rage.
Possible Punishment for Vehicular Second Degree Murder
The mandatory first offense range of punishment for the class two (2) felony of Second-Degree Murder is minimum 10 years in prison; 16 years presumptive in prison; and 22 years maximum in prison. This is “day-for-day” prison time (i.e., no early release or time off for good behavior).
Possible Defenses for Second Degree Murder
The most common defense to a Vehicular Second-Degree Murder charge is “Supervening Cause.” A “Supervening Cause” defense argues that some other event, and not the actions of the defendant, actually caused the death of the victim. Examples of a supervening cause would include an error by emergency ambulance personnel or hospital staff caused the alleged victim’s death. These cases are so complex that they require a litany of defense tools including private investigators, hospital and medical experts and doctors, accident reconstruction experts, and human factors experts, just to name of few.
At DM Cantor, many of the Arizona Vehicular Manslaughter Attorneys within the firm are experienced with even more complex murder cases, having “first-chaired” or been substantially involved in Capital Murder Trials in the past.
The key to defending a Vehicular Second-Degree Murder charge normally lies within a proper accident reconstruction. It will be important to show that, first and foremost, the accident was the other person’s fault and not the defendant’s fault. In addition, it must be shown that the defendant was not “reckless”. The standard of “recklessness” in Arizona is that the defendant was aware of, and consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result would occur or that a dangerous circumstance existed. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that disregard of such risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. Thus, we must argue that the defendant did not ignore a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” and that his conduct was not a “gross deviation from the standard of the norm”.
If the prosecutor is claiming that speed was a factor in contributing to the accident, then we must show that the evidence put forth by the state is not reliable, or even if it is reliable, it was not an unreasonable speed. Speeding does not become criminal, by statute, until it exceeds twenty-one (21) miles-per-hour 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 account for the accident and show that the accident was not due to the defendant’s actions, but to a vehicle manufacturing flaw.
Other Common Defense Tactics
Additionally, because our law firm fights conviction from all angles, we would assert a wide range of defenses and constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. 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; etc.
Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics used 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 lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.
It is important to hire an AV® rated law firm (the highest possible rating by Martindale Hubbell®) to assist you with your Second Degree Murder case. Also David Michael Cantor is an Arizona Vehicular Manslaughter Attorney, and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist, per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. In addition, the Firm and all of its lawyers are listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers®. At DM Cantor, the majority of our Attorneys are ex-Prosecutors, and all of our Arizona Vehicular Manslaughter Attorneys know the system well.