Court Determines Defendant’s Knowledge of an Underage Passenger’s Age Is Not an Element of an Arizona Aggravated DUI

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case discussing the elements of an aggravated DUI under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 28-1383(A)(3). Ultimately, the court determined that the prosecution established evidence of each element, and affirmed the jury’s guilty verdict.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving a 14-year-old girl home from a party when he was involved in a car accident. Evidently, the defendant did not know the girl very well, and was unaware of her age. When police arrived on the scene, they found a bottle of pills inside the vehicle, and the defendant admitted that he had smoked marijuana earlier that day.

The defendant was arrested and charged under A.R.S. section 28-1383(A)(3), which makes it an aggravated DUI to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol while carrying a passenger less than 15 years of age. The defendant requested the trial court instruct the jury that he could not be found guilty unless the prosecution proved the defendant knew the girl was under 15 years of age. The court rejected the defendant’s request and the jury convicted the defendant of aggravated DUI. The defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant once again argued that knowledge of his underage passenger’s age was an element of an aggravated DUI charge under A.R.S. section 28-1383(A)(3). The court first noted that there was no mention of the culpable mental state required to find a defendant guilty of an aggravated DUI. The defendant argued that the court should read-in a knowledge requirement because strict liability crimes are generally disfavored.

The court agreed with the defendant that strict liability crimes are disfavored, noting that it is only when “there appears to be a clear legislative intent not to require any particular mental state for the commission of the crime.” For example, in order for a defendant to be found guilty of aggravated DUI under A.R.S. 28-1383(A)(1), the prosecution must show that he “knew or should have known his or her license was suspended, canceled, revoked or refused for a prior DUI offense.”

Here, however, the court noted that the legislature did not include a knowledge requirement in the statute. The court explained that its role is to interpret the laws as written and it will “assume that the legislature has said what it means.” Thus, the court held that by choosing not to include a knowledge requirement in section 28-1383(A)(3), the legislature indicated its intention to make the crime a strict-liability offense.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI Offense?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona aggravated DUI offense, Attorney James E. Novak can help. Attorney Novak is a dedicated Tempe DUI attorney with extensive experience handling Arizona DUI cases. At the Law Office of James Novak, we represent clients across Arizona who face first-time DUI offenses, as well as those who have multiple prior convictions for Arizona DUI-related offenses. To learn more, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

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