A crash that took place last month in Phoenix has resulted in second degree murder and other charges against a man who police say was driving drunk. According to reports, the driver was heading the wrong way on State Route 51 when his Toyota struck an SUV. The driver of the SUV was seriously injured, and a passenger in the SUV, who was not wearing a seat belt, was killed in the collision.
The driver of the Toyota has been charged with a number of offenses, including second degree murder, aggravated DUI, aggravated assault, endangerment, and criminal damage. Police say that his blood alcohol content was 0.281 at the time of the crash. For those of you who don’t know, under A.R.S. 28-1381, his (alleged) BAC was more than three times the legal limit. To make matters worse, records indicated that he had two prior DUI convictions, for offenses that appear to have been committed within the 84-month look-back period. This typically leads, as in this case, to a charge of aggravated DUI. And we assume that the DUI charge itself will become, if it hasn’t already, a charge of extreme DUI under A.R.S. 28-1382, because of the high BAC level.
But the potential consequences of these other charges pale in comparison with the second degree murder charge. There are several potential homicide charges that could be filed in a drunk driving case resulting in a death. They include manslaughter (reckless homicide) and, in some cases, second degree murder. Generally, manslaughter would be the usual charge. We expect second degree murder, on the other hand, to be reserved for what prosecutors might see as cases showing particularly egregious circumstances.
In this case, assuming the allegations are true, we have a classic example of behavior that the prosecution could label as reckless. They include a very high BAC, and driving in the wrong direction on a freeway. When you combine this with the existence of prior drunk driving convictions, charge of second degree murder is not surprising.
Obviously, we’ll have to wait to see how the entire case plays out. In the meantime, the suspect is scheduled to appear in court on the charges later this week.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004