Defendant Appeals Arizona Drug DUI Conviction Based on Inflammatory Evidence

An appellate court recently issued an opinion in an appeal stemming from a case involving a woman convicted of an Arizona drug DUI offense. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was sentenced to concurrent prison terms after a jury convicted her of several drug and driving offenses. Amongst several issues, the defendant appeals arguing that the trial court improperly admitted an inflammatory photograph of the victim. The case arose from an incident where, while allegedly under the influence of several intoxicants, the defendant drove her vehicle around Tucson, causing several collisions. The accidents resulted in damage to seven vehicles, injuries to one victim, and the death of another.

The defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting a photograph of the victim. The photograph was a picture of the victim when she was alive and unrelated to the accident. The defendant contends that the photograph “inflamed the jury,” resulting in a prejudicial error. In this case, the trial court did instruct the jury not to be “influenced” by sympathy or prejudice.

Under Arizona law, a defendant may establish a fundamental error by proving that the error:

  • Went to the foundation of the case,
  • Took away an essential right to a defense or,
  • It was so egregious that they could not have received a fair trial.

Here, the defendant argues that the photograph inflamed the jury and caused the jury to convict her of a greater offense by depriving her of her “essential right” of having the jury decide the case based solely on the facts. However, the court explained that an error only amounts to a deprivation of an essential right if it deprives the defendant of a statutory or constitutional right.

In this case, the appellate court did not find that the trial court committed a fundamental error or any other error. They reasoned that the defendant failed to present evidence that the photograph prevented her from presenting a compelling and viable defense; or that it prevented her from rebutting the prosecution’s case. In addition, she did not present any evidence proving that a photograph of a deceased victim, unrelated to the incident, would inflame the jury. The court ultimately found that the defendant failed to establish a prejudicial error. As such, for this and other reasons, the appellate court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Have You Been Charged with an Arizona Crime?

If you are under investigation or have been arrested and charged with an Arizona DUI offense, contact the Law Office of James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a former prosecutor with years of experience handling Arizona criminal matters. The firm represents clients in various criminal defense matters, such as Arizona gun crimes, drug offenses, violent crimes, sexual offenses, and misdemeanors. James Novak has over 17 years of experience defending those accused of crimes in Arizona. He consistently provides clients with a strong defense to ensure that they receive the best possible outcome. Contact James Novak at 480-413-1499 to discuss your Arizona drunk driving case today.


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