By Frank Hinds, Executive Director
I’ve often been asked why drivers who cause a fatal red light running crash are not charged with Involuntary or Vehicular Manslaughter. That seems like a logical question since here in Arizona, most at fault drivers who cause serious physical injuries or death are usually cited under Arizona Revised Statutes 28-672, which for the most part, carries a civil fine, license suspension, traffic school and sometimes community service.
Prosecutors will argue that it would be difficult to prove manslaughter in the average motor vehicle case because jurors can put themselves in the place of the red light runner easier than they can in the place of the family of the victim. Proving the necessary mental state to obtain a conviction for either homicide or manslaughter would be very difficult. That explanation may satisfy some, but I doubt most victim families will buy it.
The definition of manslaughter according to Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1103 (A1) . . “Recklessly causing the death of another person …” and the general definition of Involuntary Manslaughter is “The act of unlawfully killing another human being unintentionally” . . and “involuntary manslaughter results from an improper use of reasonable care or skill while performing a legal act, or while committing an act that is unlawful but not felonious”
If law enforcement and the courts would utilize laws already on the books and drivers faced the possibility of a manslaughter charge, I believe you would see a dramatic change in behavior.