Arizona Court Refuses to Modify Verdict Based on “Flight Instruction” in Recent DUI Case

In a recent opinion from an Arizona court involving a DUI, the court denied the defendant’s request for a new verdict. The defendant was found guilty of driving while intoxicated and appealed by arguing that the court unfairly instructed the jury to take into account the fact that he had fled the scene when deciding that he was guilty. The court disagreed, ultimately denying the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving a white truck with a female passenger. While driving, the defendant sideswiped another car; then, instead of pulling over, he continued driving down the road. The driver of the second car decided to follow the defendant, noting his license plate and calling the police. The defendant turned onto another road, both occupants got out of the truck, and the female passenger was picked up by another car. The defendant stayed in the truck and drove back to the scene of the accident. He exited the truck and began walking down the street where the accident had occurred.

The police arrived and asked the defendant to stop so they could gather information. The defendant continued walking, initially refusing to stop before eventually complying and answering the officer’s questions. The officer later reported not only that the defendant was intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of .272 percent, but also that his license had been suspended prior to the accident. The State charged the defendant with two counts of aggravated DUI; one for driving impaired with a suspended license and the other for driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit of .08 percent.

The Decision

In his appeal, the defendant argued that the jury’s guilty verdict was erroneous because the court incorrectly instructed the jury to consider what he thought were irrelevant details of the accident. During the trial, the court had instructed the jury to take into account the fact that the defendant fled the scene after hitting the car; specifically, the court told the jury that they “may consider any evidence of the defendant’s flight” when deciding whether or not he was guilty. The defendant argued that this instruction was in error because courts are only supposed to give this “flight instruction” when it is clear that the flight supports an inference of the defendant’s guilt. In this situation, said the defendant, the fact that he drove away had no bearing on whether or not he was guilty.

Even though the court agreed with the defendant’s point that flight in this circumstance did not imply guilt, the defendant’s appeal was still denied. It was true that the defendant did not leave quickly or try to hide; thus, it might be correct that the “flight instruction” should not have been given. However, said the court, the flight instruction did not actually have an effect on the jury’s ultimate finding of guilt. Whether or not the instruction had been given, the result would have been the same. Thus, the defendant’s convictions were affirmed.

Have You Been Found Guilty of a DUI in Arizona?

If you have been charged with an Arizona DUI offense, there are defenses you can raise to fight your case. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our team will work to explore your options and build your case. Attorney Novak is an experienced advocate ready to make sure your voice is heard. For a free and confidential consultation, give the Law Office of James Novak a call today at 480-413-1499.

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