Category Archives: carlaw

How many infractions have you committed today?

In no particular order…

Driver making a left turn at a right-turn-only.

Drivers must obey all traffic control devices; this is a catch-all for official signage and striping which doesn’t have a specific statute.  §28-644 Drivers tend to ignore signage which doesn’t suit their desires. Like the driver pictured, there is a steady stream of illegal movements at this driveway (and in case you were wondering, yes the sign is an “official” TCD, duly authorized by, in this case, the city of Phoenix) (also, in case you were wondering, this is not an “official” stop sign. A complete stop before crossing the sidewalk is always required when emerging from a driveway)

Continue reading How many infractions have you committed today?

Coco Co and Flagstaff impose varying cell bans while driving

In April, Coconino County supervisors voted to ban cell use by drivers, including talking and texting — with the perennial exclusion for hands free devices. It is a primary offense; and there’s some sort of six month grace period.

Somewhat confusingly, the City of Flagstaff council has passed a city texting ban (that is texting only, and mum on any other aspect of cell use) — the city is within Coconino County. “prohibits drivers and bicycle riders from texting, emailing or using an instant message program to send or read a message while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers and cyclists are allowed to text or email while stopped for a red light, waiting for a train to pass or pulled over on the side of the road.  The ban becomes law on Aug. 15, but the city is offering a six-month grace period” azdailysun.. The way it apparently works is the city (Flagstaff) has “opted out” of Coconino County’s ban and created their own, less stringent, ban — on texting only.

Continue reading Coco Co and Flagstaff impose varying cell bans while driving

Arizona court ruling upholds DUI test for marijuana

[ 4/22/2014:  in what is presumably the final update, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled (here is same doc archived by azcentral) 4-1 that  it is not a DUI violation to be driving with the non-impairing marijuana metabolite in their bodies. In other words, the reversed the Court of Appeals ruling. Here’s a pretty good news item wrapup from the New Times. The lone dissenter offered a detailed analysis as part of the published opinion; I tend to side with her, that the majority overreached by concluding a flat ban, which is the plain language of the law, produces absurd results. But there you have it.]

This idea of any non-zero level of (a long list of) drugs, or their metabolites, being equated with driving impaired has always worried me; this recent CoA ruling affirms that this is proper. So, nothing to do with this case, i’m wondering if a decongestant, pseudophedrine (commonly found in many cold medicines) cause dui per 28-1381(A)3??? why or why not. I am chemistry challenged.

In the Court of Appeals, Div 1. No. 1 CA–SA 12–0211
STATE v. HON. HARRIS/SHILGEVORKYAN (if that link is dead findlaw0211). The caption of this case is a bit confusing,  the Real Party in Interest is Hrach Shilgevorkyan. Harris is the name of the Superior Court commisioner.

There are three ways to run afoul of Arizona’s DUI statue. The most common would be #2, BAC > .08 (referred to as drunk per se), typically anymore it is via blood evidence; another way is #1 being “under the influence… if … impaired to the slightest degree”, typically via field sobriety tests. The third way, and the one at issue here is #3, “While there is any drug … or its metabolite in the person’s body”. Continue reading Arizona court ruling upholds DUI test for marijuana

Court reinstates Scottsdale DUI test results

There was a CoA ruling recently in a long-running case that questioned the accuracy of one particular piece of lab equipment used in Scottdale’s crime lab involved with a handful of serious DUI cases.

CA-SA 13-0285 STATE v. HON. BERNSTEIN/HERMAN in the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1, was a so-called “special action” brought by Maricopa County Prosecutor Bill Mongomery. Continue reading Court reinstates Scottsdale DUI test results

(still) No charges filed vs. Pinal deputy in 2012 fatal crash

[Updated 12/2013; Deputy fired, see below]

So this is pretty weird situation stemming from a fatal wreck occurring August 2012. I don’t know how any of this is supposed to work — but it occurs to me that County Attorney Voyles could have sent this to a neutral party (another county) for disposition, and that would have avoided any appearance of impropriety. As it stands, Voyles had a clear conflict-of-interest; and he decided it in favor of his interests. Voyles description of the deputy’s actions (‘patrolling’ at ~ 100mph?) as “an acceptable investigating patrolling activity” is quite bold, and troubling. They don’t call it “criminal speeding” (see 28-701.02) for nothing, well I mean reasonable people call it that, I don’t know how Voyles (or the deputy) rationalizes it.   The victim’s (that is to say, the guy that died; the deputy was seriously injured) actions were certainly also negligent — he was very drunk, and made a bad left — but that certainly doesn’t absolve Steele of all responsibility for the collision. In any event, this is going to be very expensive for Pinal county taxpayers. Continue reading (still) No charges filed vs. Pinal deputy in 2012 fatal crash

Valley Attorney Pleads guilty in fatal hit-and-run

[Update: The result of Butel’s disciplinary action Presiding Disciplinary Judge PDJ-2014-9037. some suspension of her law license; a year, but retroactive; has a summary]

[Sentencing came down early December: Butel “was sentenced Friday to 10 days in jail and three years of probation”, though it didn’t really turn out that way,  see Case minutes  of the 12/6/2013 sentencing minute: “credit for 9 (deferred) day(s) served”. Plea deal minute is dated  9/30/2013. However, the “deferred” days were never served, see minute 3/24/2014 “deleting the 9 day jail term”, what’s up with that? Leaving 1 day for the dui, would be my guess. See also for example the driver who killed Dr. Marwan Maalouf had his sentence halved after sentencing. I also note that the 9/30 agreement had already whittled down the charges from leaving the scene of a fatal to leaving the scene of a non-serious injury crash; dropping the felony from a class 3 to 5.]

Valley attorney Aimee Butel plead guilty. This will be a felony 3 — leaving the scene of a collision she did not cause; plus a simple DUI… “preliminary test showed Butel had a blood alcohol content of 0.129”. Why do drivers hit and then run? Usually because they are doing something wrong (like, e.g. dui) Continue reading Valley Attorney Pleads guilty in fatal hit-and-run

Motorcyclist killed after crash in Phoenix

This appears to be highly typical mode of motorcyclist fatality

A motorist makes a bad left at intersection, striking oncoming motorcyclist.

Had this been a bicyclist-MV collision, it would be a crash type 212 – Motorist Left Turn—Opposite Direction, commonly called a “left hook”. This is a relatively uncommon fatal crash type, just 12 of 617 bicyclist fatalities nationwide in 2010 according to FARS. One supposes that the relative speeds involved make this far more likely to be deadly for motorcyclists than for bicyclists.

One wonders how the police handle such cases; from the description, it appears the motorist should be cited for 28-772 making a bad left, and charged with 28-672. since a death resulted.

Motorcyclist, 20, killed when driver, 84, failed to yield

By Yihyun Jeong
The Arizona Republic-12 News Breaking News Team
Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:03 PM

A motorcyclist died after a car tried to make a left turn in front of the motorcyclist at Cave Creek Road and Union Hills Drive in Phoenix Wednesday, officials said. Police responded to a serious injury collision at the intersection of Cave Creek Road and Union Hills Drive around 4 p.m., Sgt. Steve Martos, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department said. Police were told that a motorcyclist was down and his motorcycle was on fire. The motorcyclist, Angelo Wright, 20, was taken to a nearby hospital where he died of injuries, Martos said. The police department’s Vehicular Crimes Unit responded to the scene and determined that an 84-year-old female driver of a Volkswagen Rabbit, was heading east on Union Hills and tried to make a left turn at Cave Creek Road to travel north, Martos said. The driver failed to yield to Wright, who was riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and collided with him. Wright was not wearing a helmet.


Was the driver cited and/or charged? Dunno. Would have to get police report and get driver’s name, since police didn’t say, and then do a lookup.


2013: Bill would ban cell phone use by novice teen drivers

[Update as of 2/23/2013, The McComish novice cell ban, SB1241, is moving forward. The Farley full text ban SB1218 is dead. See below ]
[Update as of 4/4/2013 McComish bill appears stalled, it is being prevented from coming to a vote in full senate. In other news, Farley tried again, via amendment, to get a texting ban; see notes below on SB2378]

It’s the start of a new legislative season in Arizona, the 51st Regular session, for those keeping track.  (find other bills of interest with the legislation tag)

A cell phone ban has been introduced, SB1241. The same (or similar?) bill was introduced last year, bill-would-ban-cell-phone-use-by-teen-drivers-with-learners-permits. The bill applies only to “novice” drivers, that is those who are 16-18 years old, and the ban only lasts for 6 months. On the brighter side, it is a total ban, which I prefer to, say, a handsfree exception. For background, see NTSB has called for a total ban. Continue reading 2013: Bill would ban cell phone use by novice teen drivers

Bill would ban city’s use of photo enforcement

In what is an annual ritual, HB2579 (51st regular session) a group of Republican Arizona legislators would ban city’s and town’s use of photo enforcement. See here for last session’s go-rounds…. photo enforcement seems to be a pre-occupation with some handful of legislators.

Arizona’s legislators have often voiced frustration over being “told what to do” by, say, the Feds. Proponents of such bills, however, don’t appear to have any qualms about telling cities what they can and can’t do. Certainly, not all Republican lawmakers are on board, and cooler heads ultimately (this time, anyway) prevailed, as the bill failed to pass committee;

“I am not in favor of these things, but as a City Council member I will listen to my chief of police,” said Rep. Sonny Borrelli, a Republican from Lake Havasu City and a former City Council member there. “I can’t buy this that nobody knows about them and are being targeted — it’s no surprise.

As I’ve mentioned before… Completely aside from safety issues, cameras can, and do, provide evidence that has been used to solve crimes; including (that I know of) catching a hit-and-run driver who seriously injured a cyclist in Tucson, a hit-and-run-driver who killed a cyclist in Tempe, and a assault-robbery-murderer in Tempe.

And Another One

HB2477 (51st regular session) is yet another attempt to get rid of photo enforcement. This one harkens back to something i mentioned over a year ago; the legislature is aghast to find the the ARIZONA department of transportation is allowing photo enforcement to be placed along state roads, at the request of local juridictions. noted in a story about the bill passing the house: “Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said he really wants photo enforcement eliminated, because in his view it is unconstitutional. But with measures outlawing it failing again this year, he said the bills that are advancing at least make it harder for cities and towns to set them up.”

[update 4/3/2013: hb2477 passed full senate along party lines, i presume, and moves back to house for what is assured final approval]

Is Photo enforcement Unconstitutional?

I would like to hear Rep. Seel’s reasoning. I’ve never really seen, other than vague claims, that photo enforcement is itself “unconstitutional”. For example, one Arizona legislator told me that was so because of a “constitutional right to face one’s accusers. With PE, the camera machine cannot be cross examined; it is therefore unconstitutional”. Really. He said that. Apparently according to his theory surveillance video, say in a bank robbery, is unconstitutional as well.

Googling around; I see a county court ruling in Florida, that has been set aside; awaiting review. In any event, there is apparently zero case law in Arizona holding PE to be unconstitutional. And after over 7 years (the loop 101 demonstration project began in the fall of 2005), and untold thousands of cases; I think it’s safe to say that photo enforcement is constitutional in Arizona.