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DUI and Criminal Damage

Posted by James A. Charnesky | Oct 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

In my last blog I discussed the criminal or "guilty" state of mind, and how people can be charged with crimes even when they have no intention to commit them.

As a follow up to that post, in this entry, we address the crime of criminal damage when charged along side DUI. In these cases, it is fair to say that most individuals never intended to either drive intoxicated or to damage the property of another.

DUI - A Strict Liability Crime

In regards to DUI, the crime of DUI requires no intent. Even if an individual feels she is fine to drive, and even if she personally believes she is not over the legal limit, she can be charged and be found guilty of DUI. The only thing that actually matters is whether she was impaired to drive, or whether she was over the legal limit.

What is interesting about the crime is that while it lacks a state of mind element, the offense is often legally considered proof of a negligent or reckless state of mind. The logic works like this:

    1. Driving under the influence is well known to be dangerous and in as much, the act of DUI  is reckless.
    1. Because DUI is reckless behavior, anyone committing it is acting recklessly.
  1. Because DUI equals acting recklessly, it can serve to satisfy the criminal state of mind of a number of crimes, including criminal damage, that are charged in conjunction with DUI.


Criminal Damage

Criminal damage can be charged in conjunction with a DUI when there is an accident which results in damage to the property of another. In order to be charged with criminal damage, prosecutors must prove that an individual recklessly damaged the property of another. Recklessly means that a person knew the risk and disregarded the risk.  In these cases, prosecutors argue that operating a vehicle while impaired is reckless behavior which everybody knows to be dangerous.

Of course, defining DUI as reckless behavior is different than proving that the person committing the DUI actually knew she was driving drunk, recognized the risk, and disregarded it. The reality is that the majority of the individuals driving intoxicated felt they were not impaired by the alcohol.  One of the insidious effects of alcohol consumption is that it impairs a drinker's ability to determine intoxication.  People drink, they feel good, and they think they are fine to drive.

So how is it that the prosecutors are able to prove that a person actually recognized and ignored the risk simply by proving DUI? The answer is Arizona Revised Statute § 13-503. Arizona Revised Statute 13-503 provides that the temporary intoxication resulting from the voluntary consumption of alcohol is not a defense for any criminal act or requisite state of mind.

The law is saying that it is not a defense to a crime just because a driver may not recognize his or her impairment and the risks associated with it because of his alcohol intoxication. Unless there is another reason other than the alcohol intoxication that the driver did not recognize his impairment, prosecutors simply prove the DUI and then argue it is per se recklessness.

Criminal damage is typically charged as a felony. If the accused has no prior felony convictions, felony criminal damage is probation available, which means that the court has the option of either placing the person on probation or sending them to prison. In cases where the convicted has little or no prior criminal history, probation is usually granted.  Restitution for damage done, if not already paid for, is also normally ordered by the court.

About the Author

James A. Charnesky

James Charnesky is a Tucson DUI Defense Lawyer. His practice has always been committed to criminal defense. He has NEVER prosecuted, and has ALWAYS fought for the rights of the accused.


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