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”

Driver Sentenced: Serious Injuries in Scottsdale Pedicab Crash

[1/15/2014: Man in Scottsdale pedicab crash sentenced to 4 years in prison; Joseph Paul Spano pleaded guilty to two counts aggravated assault plus one endangerment ]

Two passengers of a pedicab were very seriously injured when they were struck by an suspected drunk driver in an early morning hours crash near downtown Scottsdale 1/4/2013. The pedicab’s driver was also injured.  The crash occurred as the pedicab was traveling north on Scottsdale Road near Rose Lane.

Seriously injured Cody A. Clark and Michael D. Tysver were both Kansas state fans in town for the Fiesta Bowl. The automobile driver “Phoenix resident Joseph Paul Spano, 27, was driving the sedan that collided with the pedicab and was arrested on suspicion of DUI, endangerment and aggravated assault”. Aggravated assault, §13-1204, can be a fairly serious charge; depending on a variety of factors. Continue reading “Driver Sentenced: Serious Injuries in Scottsdale Pedicab Crash”

(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”

Girl narrowly escapes injury after driver slams into her home

Seriously? Seriously, how often does stuff like this happen? A driver slams through the wall of a home and into the bedroom of a girl who’s sleeping just inches away. The suspect/driver Daniel Sanchez Patino fled, but of course.

Freak “accident”? Lots of freaks out there… how about: Driving into a classroom (killing 1, injuring 11), driving into a Seven-11 and killing a shopper, walking out the front door of CVS (one dead), or taking a break out in front of the Walgreens where you work (one dead), or rammed at a bus stop (2 dead, one injured), or just out for a stroll on the sidewalk (one dead) / or a jog on sidewalk (one dead). I could go on.  Oiy Veigh.

Continue reading “Girl narrowly escapes injury after driver slams into her home”

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”

Mesa Police seek driver of white SUV in fatal hit-and-run

[Update: McIver sentenced in August 2014 after pleading guilty last month; short story is 5 years prison for manslaughter plus 4 years probation. All CR2014000974 case minutes (sentencing minute is dated 8/22/2104). Also see Bar Receipts used to Indict… , which is interesting in that the case was proven with circumstantial evidence of drunkeness; though it was obviously not stron enough to seek 2nd degree murder charges, which is routine for drunk drivers who negligently kill someone. Thus the plea deal to manslaughter. Also MCAO issued a press release, sortof unusual.]

[ Update: SUSPECT ARRESTED 8/20/2013 “Mesa police Sgt. Tony Landato said 36-year-old Matthew S. McIver is being booked on manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident” ] updated 8/14/2013 ~ 1PM Mesa police identified the victim of a fatal hit-and-run collision as Richard B. Welck, 68, who was riding a tricycle when he was apparently struck from behind by an SUV on Tuesday night. Welck was riding east in the 8000 block of East Ray Road at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday when he was struck from behind by the SUV, which also was headed east, according to Mesa police. Sgt. Tony Landato, a police spokesman, said evidence at the scene suggests that the SUV is possibly a white 2003-2005 Saturn Vue. Landato said police made an “exhaustive’’ check of the area but were unable to locate the SUV. Police are asking the public for help in identifying the vehicle and the driver. Anyone with information is asked to call police at (480) 644-2211.

The area where Welck was killed by the driver has a particularly wide designated bike lane; this is tagged “drifted”. more info at this news story. The victim was a 68 year old male. He was riding an adult tricycle blue in color. 
IF YOU COME ACROSS THE SUV, call the Mesa Police at (480) 644-2211 or by calling Silent Witness at (480) WITNESS, you can remain anonymous Police say a bicyclist in his mid-60s was killed Tuesday night (8/13/2013) in a hit-and-run collision in Mesa. Mesa police Sgt. Tony Landato said police are looking for a white SUV with front-end damage, possibly a Saturn Vue, in connection with the incident near Sossoman and Ray roads…

I’m adding the circumstantial tag, this is a bit of a twist, it’s about how they got him to plead guilty to manslaughter, using video surveillance of bars he had been at, and receipts. rather than direct proof (e.g. field sobriety tests, blood test, etc):

Craig Penrod, a veteran East Valley attorney who represents defendants accused of driving under the influence, said there have been past attempts by police to reconstruct the actions of defendants but he has not heard of police using an estimated blood alcohol content level in the past.

“You would need a lot of details to reconstruct a BAC without any sort of chemical test,’’ Penrod said. “It sounds pretty far-fetched to me.’’

“I have never heard of them putting together a BAC based on circumstantial evidence,’’ he said.

Phoenix police, however, were able to obtain enough evidence to arrest two defendants who also are accused of fleeing the scene after they struck and killed victims. Witnesses, a surveillance video obtained from a liquor store, cell phone records and physical evidence eventually linked Jesus Cabrera Molina to the May 19 death of Officer Daryl Raetz, who was processing a DUI case at 51st and Cambridge avenues when he was run down. Cabrera also was accused of manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatality.

Christopher Chevalier was accused of the same charges, plus tampering with evidence, in the March 5 death of Anna Blaze, who was struck by an Alfa Romeo while she walked on a sidewalk with a friend at Northern Avenue and 11th Street.

Scottsdale Cyclist dies after hit-and-run crash

Below is chronological history of hit-and-run fatality w/DUI, incident occurred 1/13/2012 through sentencing.

The sentence is, apparently, from what we now know, typical. Despite what appear to be harsh penalties for any hit-and-run, the justice system (courts and prosecutors) ignore what appear to be minimum sentences; for example the felony 3 the driver plead guilty to carries a presumptive minimum of 3.5 years in prison, and a mandatory suspension of driver’s license from 5 to 10 years; and these penalties are to run  in addition to any other penalties (in this case, the extreme DUI). In short, it appears nobody goes to prison for hit-and-run; the statutory penalties are a paper tiger.

Suspected alcohol involved and hit-and-run driver who seriously injured bicyclist Steven Douglas Langager on January 13, 2012. Langager subsequent died from injuries sustained.
The driver’s name was never released in the media; Scottsdale PD PIO said the suspect in the “Jan collision included Roger Stevensen, 60 yrs old” (probably ROGER ALLAN STEVENSON, 05/1951).
He was subsequently indicted in September on charges of extreme DUI and felony H&R; the case is docketed as S-0700-CR-2012008319 Continue reading “Scottsdale Cyclist dies after hit-and-run crash”

Car plows into bus stop killing 1; DUI likely, police say

Really? Oh yeah, and of course it was hit-and-run. Oh, yeah, witnesses say the driver ran a red light. incident occurred 5/13/2013 around 0400.

Dead ped at a bus stop? Seriously, how often do thinkgs like this happen? Pretty often apparently. And, oh yeah, in March a suspected dui driver slammed into a Phoenix bus stop and killed 2 people — at least that guy didn’t (or couldn’t) hit-and-run.

Oh well back to the present case, excerpts:

One person is dead, a second is injured and a third is in police custody after a car plowed into a Phoenix bus stop before sunrise Monday. Police believe the driver, a 22-year-old Hispanic woman, was impaired at the time of the wreck…. According to police, a black sedan was heading north on 27th Avenue when the driver ran a red light. She swerved to avoid two cars, veered off the road and slammed into the bus stop by the 7-Eleven at Indian School Road… Harry Cleveland, 50, was sitting on the bus bench when the car hit it. He took the brunt of the impact and died about an hour later at a local hospital. A 20-year-old man who had been sitting on another bench, was taken to a local hospital, as well. His condition was not immediately available. A 19-year-old woman who also was waiting at the bus stop managed to dodge the out-of-control car and avoid injury…. Witnesses told investigators that the driver, now identified as Elsa Olivares, and the passenger ran away from the scene. Police checked the vehicle’s registration and went to the address listed. While en route to that apartment, police received a call from Olivares. After telling them she was involved in the crash, she turned herself in.


Late May, the suspect entered not-guilty pleas to all charges, the usual litany: 2nd Degree Murder, agg assault, endangerment, leaving the scene of a fatal. You can read all about it case lookup (or here at Maricopa County Superior Court directly) St of AZ Vs. Elsa Priscila Olivares CR-2013421459; case minutes.  State’s Attorney is Rebecca Kennelly. Defendant’s Attorney is presently Jesus Acosta (i believe appointed?). This is a “complex case”. Trial is currently set for mid-January 2014.

Formal list of charges:

13-1103 (F2) MANSLAUGHTER 5/13/2013
13-1204 (F3) AGGRAVATED ASSAULT 5/13/2013
13-1201 (F6) ENDANGERMENT 5/13/2013

Bicyclist killed in Tucson hit-and-run was SunTran driver

05/23/2013 Bicyclist John Akers was struck and killed at the intersection of Mission and Irvington Road; this is near but outside of Tucson, and so Pima County Sheriff’s Office handled the investigation. The driver fled the scene. Akers was on his way to work around 3:30a as a SunTran driver. Deputies located a suspect vehicle and a suspect was arrested a few hours later. The bicyclist was northbound, and the motorist was eastbound — this is a signalized intersection.  Bicyclist killed in Tucson hit-and-run was SunTran driver has reported that “Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy and BAC liaison Ryan Roher said via email that alcohol was involved. He said the suspect left the scene, but was later apprehended by Pima County deputies. According to Roher the cyclist was wearing a helmet and witnesses indicate the cyclist was riding  ‘within the law.’ ”

The Criminal Case

Pima County Superior Court case CR20132547

UPDATED Jan 2014 “The driver who hit and killed John Akers, a SunTran driver who was cycling to work, has been sentenced to 15 years in jail, the Arizona Daily Star is reporting … Enrique F. Hernandez plead guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash that caused a death as well as driving under the influence”…”Hernandez, 25, ran a stop light at Mission and Irvington roads where he plowed into John Akers, who was riding his bike to work. Hernandez then fled the scene”

If this bit from the azstar is correct: “Hernandez was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the manslaughter charge and five years for leaving the scene of a deadly accident. Those prison terms will be served consecutively.” It is the ONLY sentence I’ve EVER seen where prison time will actually be served for hit-and-run.

Phoenix police officer dies in fatal hit-and-run

vehicleRaetzHitAndRunFatality[Update: driver sentenced] Although it seems obvious that police work is dangerous because there are bad guys with guns trying to kill them; roughly the same number of  policeman killed in the line of duty die as the result of a traffic collision than by being shot (or stabbed)….

May 19, 2013 ~ 3:30a, Phoenix police officer Daryl Raetz was killed while “processing a DUI suspect near 51st and Cambridge avenues when he was struck by a green Ford Expedition, which then fled the scene”. The story doesn’t give much detail, I would assume from what was presented he was a pedestrian, which is consistent with the picture of the SUV that struck Raetz, which police released later. Continue reading “Phoenix police officer dies in fatal hit-and-run”

DUI suspected in Phoenix crash that injured 5

Yikes — head on collision with multiple life-threatening injuries to the children, whom police said were all properly restrained.

It was a glorious late-April morning in Phoenix, the sun had been up for just an hour, the kids were all buckled in…  seriously, how often does stuff like this happen happen? By the way, neither of the vehicles involved were remarkable, the victim was driving a Pontiac G6 and the suspect was driving a Mitsubishi Galant; both mid-sized sedans in the 3,000 pound weight range.
The collision occurred on Southern Avenue near 38th St, Southern Avenue is typical of the Phoenix Metro area’s many, fine, wide, straight, multi-laned, high-speed arterial streets (appears to be posted 45mph); they work really well except when drivers bump into one another, or a ped, or a a cyclist; and then people get seriously injured or die. Continue reading “DUI suspected in Phoenix crash that injured 5”

Driver sentenced in Tucson dui / hitandrun / switcheroo fatality

I’m collecting this here mostly for completeness; this is the case involving the death of motorized bicyclist, Craig Lewis, 47.  The perp is Samantha Baldwin, 23. Lewis was struck from behind while riding on the shoulder along W. Ajo Highway near Soledad Ave around 1 a.m. on May 19, 2012. Thanks to for their coverage Continue reading “Driver sentenced in Tucson dui / hitandrun / switcheroo fatality”

2 peds killed, 1 hurt after pickup truck slams into bus stop

Two dead peds, plus one seriously injured while in the process of boarding a city bus. Seriously, how often does this happen?

Police suspect the driver, Raymond J. Barela, , who was going the wrong way, of being impaired. 2 killed, 1 hurt after pickup truck slams into bus stop. 3/26/2013.

“Of the fatalities, only one has been identified (at the time of the news story). That victim is 47-year-old Jesus Antonio Martinez Chavez.” Phoenix police said that two people were boarding a city bus at 67th Avenue and Indian School Road when the driver of a yellow Nissan truck traveling west on Indian School lost control, crossed the center lane, and crashed between the bus stop bench and the bus. Jesus Antonio Martinez Chavez, 47, was pronounced dead at the scene. An unidentified 43-year-old man was taken to a local hospital and later died during surgery. A 36-year-old man escaped with minor injuries.

Police said the driver of the truck has been identified as Raymond J. Barela, 43. He was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and is suspected of being under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.


Driver gets 6 years in sidewalk killing

The driver involved with a sidewalk-killing-hit-and-run that spurred the victim’s father to get “Joey’s Law” enacted has been sentenced to 6 years prison plus some probation. “Police say (Laura) Flanders drove onto the sidewalk and hit 18-year-old Joey Romero while he was walking home from work in October 2010″ [abc15].  Seriously, how often does this happen? Continue reading “Driver gets 6 years in sidewalk killing”