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In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant appealed his conviction for manslaughter. Originally, the defendant was found guilty when he hit a pedestrian while driving his car above the neighborhood’s posted speed limit. The pedestrian died, the defendant was charged, and a jury eventually found the defendant guilty of manslaughter. On appeal, the defendant argued that the court failed to properly instruct the jury as to who exactly had the right of way during the accident. Agreeing with the defendant, the court vacated the manslaughter conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving between 44 and 55 miles per hour in an area where the speed limit was posted as 40 miles per hour. As he was driving, the defendant struck and killed a victim as she stepped off the median and began to walk into the roadway. At the time, the victim was walking along a brick pathway that ran perpendicular to the road on which the defendant was driving.

Immediately after the crash, a police officer came to the scene. While speaking with the defendant, the officer noticed that the defendant was slurring his speech and had drooping eyes. A subsequent blood sample revealed that the defendant had a blood concentration of 36 nanograms of Xanax and 14 nanograms of THC per milliliter.

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Too often, our clients come to us concerned because of charges resulting from a DUI stop. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we know and understand how frightening it is to get pulled over, and that when alcohol is involved, the stakes are high. It is thus crucial to know your rights when you are on the road so that you can be prepared if and when you see the flashing blue lights behind you.

Probable Cause

The first thing to know is that if an officer pulls you over and asks you to perform a breathalyzer test, they must have probable cause to suspect that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means that officers cannot ask you to perform a sobriety test without some indication that you are not sober (the exception to this rule would be if the officers are conducting a DUI checkpoint and you were randomly selected to conduct a test as part of this checkpoint).

Anything that you say or do could be used against you in order for the officer to find probable cause to breathalyze you, test your urine, or test your blood. For example, if you are swerving on the road or if (after the traffic stop) your speech is impaired, the officer will likely have legal grounds to request that you take a sobriety test. In Arizona, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol count (BAC) of .08% or higher, but officers can still arrest you if your BAC is lower than .08% and if their perception is that you are “impaired to the slightest degree.” For example, if your BAC is .07% but you are slurring your words when you speak to the officer, that officer can still arrest you under suspicion of a DUI.

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In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant successfully appealed his convictions following a car accident at least partially caused by his speeding. The defendant was originally charged with and convicted of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and criminal damage. Because of his appeal and the facts surrounding the accident, the higher court vacated the trial court’s original decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving between seventy and ninety-five miles per hour in a forty-five miles per hour zone. While going at this speed, the defendant struck another car, causing the two passengers of that second car to be ejected from the vehicle. The second car’s driver was a man and the passenger was his seven-month-old son. Neither passenger was wearing a seatbelt, and the father had THC in his system at the time of the crash. Tragically, the seven-month-old son died as a result of the crash.

The father pled guilty to driving under the influence and endangerment after the crash. The main defense raised by the defendant was that he alone was not responsible for the injuries – it was true, said the defendant, that he was speeding, but the father was also under the influence and without a seatbelt at the time of the crash. Thus, according to the defendant, he could not take all of the blame.

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The State of Arizona takes DUI and related offenses extremely seriously. First-time offenders are often required to serve jail time, and subsequent offenders can face substantial prison sentences. With each successive DUI, the punishment becomes exponentially more severe, making it extremely important for persons accused of DUI to obtain competent legal counsel. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently addressed a defendant’s appeal of his DUI conviction, which was for a second offense and resulted in a prison sentence of 4.5 years.

The defendant in the recently decided appeal was stopped while operating a motor vehicle on I-17 in Maricopa county. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, officers smelled the odor of alcohol on the man and suspected he was driving under the influence of alcohol. After performing sobriety tests, and ultimately a chemical test showing a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit, the defendant was charged with an aggravated DUI. The defendant had previously been convicted of aggravated DUI in the State of Arizona in 2006. The defendant was offered a plea agreement by prosecutors, which he rejected, and the case was taken to trial.

After a jury trial in which several witnesses testified against the defendant, he was found guilty of the aggravated DUI charges. The defendant was not sentenced immediately after his conviction; as he was instructed to return for sentencing. The defendant failed to appear for his sentencing hearing, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. After the defendant was found several months later, he was sentenced for crimes. The defendant was sentenced to two prison terms of 4.5 years, which would be served concurrently. The defendant appealed his conviction to the state court of appeals.

In a recent case coming out of a criminal court in Arizona, the defendant appealed his convictions for negligent homicide, endangerment, criminal damage, and aggravated assault. Facing several different guilty convictions, the defendant made multiple arguments on appeal, one of which was that the trial court should not have denied his original motion to suppress incriminating evidence. The higher court considered the defendant’s appeal but ultimately disagreed with him and affirmed his original convictions and sentences.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving his truck one evening when he collided with another vehicle, leading that car to launch into the air and land on another person’s car. One person was killed in the crash. After the crash, investigators drew blood from the defendant three times and found each time that his blood alcohol level was significantly above the .08 concentration, which serves as the threshold number for a person to be charged with driving under the influence.

After a jury trial, the defendant was sentenced to prison terms totaling 13.5 years. He promptly appealed his convictions and sentences.

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Nobody likes getting pulled over by the police, even when you haven’t done anything wrong. However, it’s easy to assume that, if you haven’t been drinking, you have nothing to worry about. That isn’t the case, as a recent Arizona appellate opinion illustrates.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was riding as a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence. When the officer approached the vehicle asking about whether there are any weapons in the car, the defendant replied that there were none. However, as the officer shined a flashlight through the vehicle’s windows, he saw a shotgun barrel.

When confronted with the fact that there was a weapon in the car, the defendant told the officer that he meant to mention the shotgun, but he forgot. When asked, the defendant admitted that he handled the gun, that he was on felony probation, and that he knew he was prohibited from handling a weapon. The defendant was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

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In a recent Arizona DUI case, the defendant’s appeal of his guilty verdict was denied. The defendant appealed in part because he was not present at his trial, and he asked the court to reverse the verdict given his absence. The higher court denied the appeal, finding it was the defendant’s own decision to skip the trial, and that his voluntary decision made him subject to the consequences of the jury’s decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two cars approached the entry gate of a Target warehouse one evening in March 2018. Coincidentally arriving at the same time, the driver of the second car watched as the driver of the first car rammed his vehicle into the closed gate and squeezed into the parking lot. The gate came off its tracks and the driver of the second car immediately called 911.

When police officers arrived, they found the first car zooming around in the parking lot, and they suspected the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The officers stopped the car and found the defendant in this case at the wheel and his one-year-old daughter in the back of the car. At this point, the officers noticed that the defendant’s eyes were bloodshot; he smelled of alcohol, and his words were jumbled and slurred.

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In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, the defendant’s appeal of his convictions and sentences was denied. The defendant was originally convicted of four counts of aggravated driving or actual physical control while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, which are class 4 felonies. In an attempt to fight these convictions, the defendant asked the Arizona court to review the trial record for any errors that could have unfairly affected his guilty verdict. Finding no errors, the court affirmed the defendant’s convictions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was pulled over by a police officer because a rear-mounted camera blocked one-quarter of his car’s license plate, which should have been on full display. The officer checked the license plate in his system and found that it was invalid.

During the traffic stop, the officer noticed that the defendant had bloodshot eyes and was grinding his teeth. Suspecting that the defendant had been driving under the influence, the officer conducted field sobriety tests, including asking him to walk in a straight line and to balance on one foot. The defendant could not maintain his balance and continuously fidgeted during the sobriety tests.

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In a recent opinion involving a DUI, an Arizona court denied the defendant’s appeal. The defendant had been pulled over for reckless driving on the highway, and he was charged with a DUI and with resisting arrest. Despite the defendant’s four different arguments on appeal, the court affirmed the defendant’s original guilty verdict.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a police officer responded to emergency calls that complained of a pickup truck swerving on the highway in Phoenix. The officer found the truck and began following it, observing that the driver was driving recklessly and nearly colliding with multiple vehicles. When the officer turned on his vehicle lights and siren, the truck did not immediately pull over. Eventually, the driver (the defendant in this case) stopped on the shoulder of the road.

During the traffic stop, the officer noticed that the defendant appeared to be impaired by alcohol. The officer performed several tests on the defendant, concluding that the defendant was, indeed, intoxicated. When the defendant learned he was under arrest for DUI, he immediately ran away, dragging the police officer with him. Both men tumbled to the ground, and they fought each other until the officer was able to restrain the defendant. Later, at the hospital, the defendant was found to have a blood alcohol concentration between .190 and .203 within two hours of driving.

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Many state and national campaigns attempt to combat driving under the influence; however, they primarily focus on alcohol and illicit drug use. As such, many people are unaware that Arizona law permits prosecuting individuals for driving under the influence (DUI) involving legal prescription medications. The cases generally focus on the person’s impairment rather than the drug’s concentration in their system. The penalties for prescription drug DUI in Arizona can range and may involve:

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Driver license suspension
  • Community service
  • Ignition interlock device installation
  • Treatment programs
  • Traffic school
  • Fines and assessments

Even those taking the medications as directed may face Arizona DUI charges. Two DUI statutes, ARS § 28-1381(A)(1) and ARS § 1381(A)(3), govern prescription medication DUIs. ARS § 28-1381(A)(1) refers to cases involving “impairment to the slightest degree.” This statute makes it illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired by any drug or alcohol. This zero-tolerance law strictly prohibits driving under these conditions, regardless of whether the driver has a legal prescription. ARS § 1381(A)(3) involves “driving with an illegal drug in one’s Body” and generally refers to non-prescribed prescription medications and street drugs.

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