Arizona Defendant Loses Appeal in Negligent Homicide Case Stemming from DUI Accident

In a recent case coming out of an Arizona court, the defendant appealed his convictions for negligent homicide, endangerment, criminal damage, and driving under the influence. On appeal, the defendant brought forth several arguments, one of which was that the trial court improperly excluded evidence that could have swayed the jury in his favor. The court of appeals considered the defendant’s argument and disagreed, ultimately denying the appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was drinking with friends one evening at a birthday party. Around 1:30 am, the defendant decided to drive home, thinking he was sober enough to operate a vehicle without danger to any others on the road. As the defendant drove, though, he entered into what he later described as a dreamlike state and became confused. He stopped his car, stood in the middle of the highway, and realized he had been driving southbound in a northbound lane.

The defendant got back in his car but continued driving in the wrong direction on the road. He directly collided with another car, and all four passengers in the second car died immediately. The defendant was taken to the hospital, and blood alcohol tests revealed that he had a blood alcohol concentration of approximately .083 at the time of the collision.

Later analysis revealed that the victim driving the vehicle had also been drinking and that she had a blood alcohol concentration of .117. The defendant was criminally charged, and his case went to trial.

The Decision

After being found guilty, the defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly excluded evidence that would have worked in his favor. When the defendant’s lawyer attempted to include the victim driver’s blood alcohol concentration as part of his evidence, the trial court denied the request, stating that this information was not relevant for purposes of the defendant’s guilt. The defendant disagreed, and on appeal argued that it was impossible for the jury to objectively assess the risk involved in the accident if they did not know the full story of each driver’s blood alcohol content.

The court countered this argument, maintaining that the victim driver’s blood alcohol content was irrelevant to the jury’s determination. It was undisputed, said the court, that the victim driver was staying straight in her lane and driving in the proper direction at the time of the accident. Her blood alcohol concentration could only show, at best, her ability to avoid the collision, not the fault of the collision itself.

Because the court of appeals agreed with the trial court on this issue, the defendant’s original convictions were affirmed.

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