An impaired driver who causes an accident can face charges that are far more serious than just DUI. The type of criminal charges that the impaired driver may face varies depending on the severity of the accident that he or she caused. Even if the accident didn’t cause any injuries, the DUI driver that caused it can still be charged with Endangerment. To prove Endangerment, the State must present evidence establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant recklessly exposed another to a substantial risk of either physical injury or imminent death. If the reckless conduct created a substantial risk of physical injury, then Endangerment is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. However, if the reckless conduct created a substantial risk of imminent death, it is a class 6 felony.
In a DUI accident case resulting in a felony Endangerment charge, the State often alleges that the offense is a “dangerous” offense due to the Defendant’s use of a vehicle. The vehicle is considered a dangerous instrument because it is readily capable of causing serious physical injury or death when used improperly. A person convicted of felony Endangerment is generally probation eligible. However, if the State alleges and proves the “dangerous” offense allegation, then Endangerment comes with a mandatory prison sentence.
In a prosecution for Endangerment arising out of an accident where one of the drivers was DUI, the State must prove that the Defendant engaged in reckless conduct. In Arizona, “reckless” conduct is defined as conduct evidencing a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm. The State typically attempts to prove recklessness by showing that the Defendant voluntarily drove while intoxicated, thereby disregarding the substantial, unjustifiable, and known risk of harm that such conduct creates. To do this, they obviously have to prove that the Defendant was driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Thus, in an endangerment prosecution arising out of a DUI accident, the Defendant can obtain an acquittal if his Phoenix DUI attorney can successfully demonstrate reasonable doubt about whether he was impaired at the time of the accident.
Even if the Defendant cannot reasonably argue that he or she wasn’t impaired, all hope is not lost. This is because the State must prove, in addition to reckless conduct, that such conduct caused an actual substantial risk of either physical injury or imminent death. Thus, if the accident at issue was relatively minor and not the type expected to create an actual and substantial risk of either physical injury or death, the Defendant can likely succeed at trial. This can be done by arguing that their reckless conduct did not have the result required to establish the crime of felony endangerment.
If you have been charged with either misdemeanor or felony Endangerment you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in Phoenix to assist you with your case. At Stone Rose Law, our attorneys can find the weaknesses in the State’s case and exploit those weaknesses to your advantage. Don’t go it alone, call Stone Rose Law now today.