Arizona Court Rejects Defendant’s Argument to Keep Out Incriminating Evidence in Recent DUI Case

In a recent opinion from an Arizona court involving a DUI, the defendant’s request for a new verdict was denied. The defendant was found guilty of manslaughter, assault, endangerment, and driving under the influence. He appealed, arguing the verdict was unreasonable because the court allowed the jury to consider a prior DUI offense when making a decision regarding the present DUI offense. The court disagreed, ultimately denying the defendant’s appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was driving one evening when he hit another vehicle, launching the vehicle into oncoming traffic. The vehicles involved in the collision caught fire, and one driver died, while several others were injured. When police interviewed the defendant at the scene, they noticed that his eyes were droopy, his speech was slurred, and he was unable to hold his balance. He was arrested, and he later admitted to having taken two Oxycodone pills fifteen minutes before driving. A blood-draw further revealed that he had several other sedative drugs in his system.

At the time of the collision, the defendant had a prior misdemeanor conviction for DUI and was required to have an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he drove. Even though the defendant was aware of this requirement, he did not have an ignition interlock device on his vehicle.

The jury found the defendant guilty of manslaughter, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of endangerment, and two counts of aggravated DUI. When deciding whether or not the defendant was guilty, the jury took into consideration the fact that the defendant had previously been convicted of a DUI, using this prior offense as evidence that he understood the risk of causing a collision while under the influence of drugs The defendant appealed, arguing that the court should not have allowed the jury to consider his previous offense when making a decision on the current case.

The Decision

The court disagreed. Even though under the Federal Rules of Evidence, courts cannot allow evidence of previous acts to show a person’s character, they are permitted to allow evidence of previous acts to show a person’s motive, intent, or knowledge around a present offense. Under these Rules, evidence of a prior crime can be admitted to prove a defendant’s mental state if the prior crime is substantially similar to the act for which the defendant is on trial.

The defendant argued that his prior DUI conviction did not prove his mental state at the time of the collision. The two events were separate from each other, he said, and there was no evidence that drew specific similarities between the two DUI offenses. The court responded by saying that a time gap between the two events was irrelevant. Furthermore, it did not matter that there were no obvious similarities between the two offenses – it was enough of a similarity that the two offenses were both based on a DUI. Because the defendant had previously been found guilty of a similar crime, said the court, he should have been more cautious when under the influence. Given the previous conviction, the court did not have sympathy for the defendant, and the guilty verdict was affirmed.

Have You Been Charged Driving Under the Influence in Arizona?

If you have been arrested for an Arizona DUI offense, it is of the utmost importance that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we are ready to combat the charges you face to put your life back on track. For a free consultation, call 480-413-1499.

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