The Operation Element of an Arizona DUI

When the government brings a criminal case against a citizen, it is the government’s burden to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Specific to Arizona DUI cases, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was intoxicated and that they were in physical control of a vehicle. This second element was the recent focus of a state appellate decision.

According to the court’s opinion, a family was traveling northbound on Interstate 17 when the driver saw headlights drifting off and on the road. A few moments later, the driver could see that the headlights sharply veered off the road and it appeared as though the vehicle was rolling. The driver made a U-turn to see if anyone needed help.

One of the family members in the vehicle saw the defendant about ten feet away from a damaged pickup truck. When the family stopped, the defendant approached them and asked them not to call the police. The defendant asked for a ride to the next exit, assuring the family that he was not in need of medical attention. However, the defendant was bleeding, and the family called an ambulance.

While waiting for an ambulance, the defendant asked the family to tell the police that they saw another person exit the vehicle and flee. The defendant got into the back seat of the family’s car, and again asked them to take him to the next exit. The family refused.

Police arrived and noticed that the defendant exhibited signs of intoxication. The responding officer also noted that the defendant had injuries that were consistent with him being the driver of the pickup truck. One of the family members told responding officers that “he’s going to try to tell you that there was another driver; I did not see another driver.”

The defendant was ultimately tried and convicted of driving under the influence. On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence presented by the government was legally insufficient to prove that he was the driver. The court disagreed, finding that the circumstantial evidence presented through two of the family members, as well as the responding officer, was sufficient to uphold the conviction. The court noted that, while the defendant insisted that another person was driving, the other testimony contradicted his version of the events, and that the jury was free to accept or reject his testimony.

Have You Been Charged with an Arizona DUI?

If you have recently been charged with a DUI in Arizona, contact attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. A DUI conviction can have a serious impact on your future, and may result in jail time, probation, fines, and may also limit future career opportunities. Attorney Novak is a respected Tempe DUI lawyer with extensive experience handling all types of drunk driving cases. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Novak understands how the other side thinks, and puts that knowledge to use for each of his clients. To learn more about how Attorney James Novak can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 480-413-11499 to schedule a free consultation.

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