Earlier this month, an appeals court in Arizona considered whether a criminal defendant that had caused a deadly accident was indeed guilty of homicide and aggravated assault. Originally, the defendant was convicted after his truck collided with an ATV while he was under the influence. Despite the defendant’s argument on appeal that the trial court improperly limited his defense, the court of appeals affirmed the original guilty verdict.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a woman was at the store one evening when she saw several teenage girls next to her; she recognized the girls as being the same ones that were on an ATV she had recently passed on the road. Before leaving the store, the woman saw the girls on the ATV drive out ahead of her. She also saw the defendant in this case, in his truck, driving out around the same time. Minutes later, she drove away herself, and immediately noticed debris on the road. She knew there had been an accident, and she called 911 to report that the ATV and the truck had collided.
Investigators and first respondents arrived at the scene, and they found two of the ATV riders had died while the third had suffered serious injuries. The defendant had run away from the accident, and the woman from the store told officers she thought he could have been involved.
The officers later found the defendant a couple of miles away at a friend’s house. Taking a sample of the defendant’s blood, the officers approximated that the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of the accident was between .12 and .16, well over the legal limit of .08. He was charged with several crimes, including failure to stop at the scene of an accident, manslaughter, and aggravated assault. A jury found the defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court improperly limited his defense by keeping him from introducing certain key pieces of evidence. For example, the defendant argued that the medical examiner involved in the case thought that the ATV riders’ injuries were worsened by the fact that they were not wearing helmets. If the jury had known this fact, it might have helped his case, but the trial court had told the defendant that he could not bring this piece of evidence in at trial.
The higher court examined the record of the case and noticed that on the stand, the medical examiner stated that the intense nature of the victims’ injuries indicated that they were not wearing helmets. According to the court, the examiner implied in her testimony that protective gear would have lessened the victims’ injuries, and because of this common-sense implication, additional statements about the possible effects of helmets would not have helped the defendant make his case.
Thus, said the court, the defendant was not harmed by the exclusion of this evidence. The court then upheld the defendant’s original verdict.
Are You Facing Charges for DUI in Arizona?
At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we understand the harsh consequences of a DUI conviction, and we will fight every case as if our clients’ lives depend on it. If you are looking for an aggressive, dependable Tempe DUI defense attorney, look no further. For a free and confidential consultation, call our office today at 480-413-1499.