Court Rejects Defendant’s Claims of Prosecutorial Misconduct in Recent Arizona DUI Case

The role of an Arizona DUI defense attorney is to defend his or her client at every step of the case. Initially, this means conducting a thorough investigation into the case, diligently reviewing the state’s evidence, and creating a compelling defense. Once the trial starts, however, a defense attorney’s role expands, requiring they keep an eye on the prosecution.

The role of a prosecutor is to “seek justice.” However, as history shows, sometimes prosecutors step out of line, either by withholding valuable evidence, trying to use prejudicial evidence, or making inflammatory comments to the jury. Defense attorneys are critical in keeping prosecutors in check, by objecting to their unfair tactics.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona drunk driving case, discussing the defendants’ claims that the prosecutor engaged in prejudicial misconduct. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant entered a roundabout without yielding the right of way to a police cruiser. The officer initiated a traffic stop, and the defendant sped away. The chase reached speeds of 120 miles per hour before the defendant stopped the car and got out. The officer commanded the defendant to get on the ground, and he complied, at which point he was arrested.

The officer noticed the defendant smelled of alcohol and requested he submit to a blood test, which the defendant refused. The defendant was charged with DUI.

In the prosecutor’s closing argument, he made several statements that the defendant claimed served only to prejudice him. For example, the prosecutor explained to the jury the defendant was on a “beer run” when he was pulled over. The prosecutor also cited non-expert testimony regarding how fast the defendant was driving.

The Court’s Analysis

The Court explained that prosecutors are given wide latitude when it comes to their closing arguments, and to succeed in a claim of prosecutorial misconduct, a defendant must show the prosecutor’s comments, 1.) “infected the trial with unfairness,” and 2.) denied the defendant of the right to a fair trial.

Here, the court reviewed each of the alleged instances of misconduct, finding that each one was either appropriate or did not rise to the level of denying the defendant his right to a fair trial. For example, while the court determined that while the comment that the defendant was on a beer run may not have been supported by the evidence, the trial court’s instruction to the jury to disregard the statement cured any risk of prejudice. The court’s opinion illustrates the high bar that a defendant must meet to succeed on these claims.

Contact a Dedicated Arizona DUI Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for an Arizona drunk driving offense, reach out to Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. He can help defend your rights from the moment you were arrested, through trial, and appeal, if necessary. Attorney Novak has extensive experience handling all types of DUI cases, and is prepared to defend his clients against aggressive prosecutors who are only out to seek a conviction. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak, call 480-413-1499 today.

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