A police officer in Scottsdale, Arizona, faces the possibility of spending up to 15 years in prison after being indicted on charges related to a car accident that occurred last November. Officer Michael Lanouar was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) while driving an off-duty city vehicle at the time of the accident. He is now facing two felony charges of aggravated assault and endangerment.
Lanouar’s accident occurred when he collided with another vehicle near Pima Road and Indian School Road. Both people in the other car were hospitalized, and Lanouar was subsequently arrested on suspicion of DUI. Scottsdale Police confirmed that Lanouar’s toxicology report showed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .198%, which is more than double the legal limit. Despite this, Lanouar is not being charged with impairment.
According to criminal defense attorney Russ Richelsoph, this is because when a person is suspected of DUI and they cause serious physical injury to another person, they are typically charged with aggravated assault rather than DUI. Richelsoph added that specific wording in the indictment is important in determining the officer’s fate, stating that “the prosecutor’s office will allege that the vehicle is a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, and that makes it mandatory prison.”
If Lanouar is convicted, he could face a minimum of five years and a maximum of 15 years in prison. Richelsoph believes that even if Lanouar takes a plea deal, it will likely involve prison time rather than just probation. As for his status with the Scottsdale Police Department, Lanouar resigned as a police officer in January but took an involuntary demotion to work as a detention officer in the city’s jail.
Scottsdale Police have stated that they will evaluate Lanouar’s employment depending on the outcome of the trial. While the department allows officers to work after certain types of misdemeanor arrests and convictions, a felony conviction like Lanouar is facing would mean that he would no longer be able to carry a gun, which is necessary to be an armed police officer or armed detention officer.
The case has drawn attention to the issue of police officers driving under the influence. While officers are not above the law, there have been cases where they have received lenient treatment. In some instances, they have been allowed to keep their jobs or have been given light sentences. However, in recent years, there has been a push to hold police officers accountable for their actions, including instances of DUI.
In 2019, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board revised its rules regarding DUI offenses committed by police officers. Under the new rules, officers who are convicted of a DUI offense will face mandatory revocation of their certification. Additionally, officers who refuse to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test will face automatic suspension of their certification.
The Lanouar case highlights the importance of accountability for police officers, especially when it comes to driving under the influence. While police officers are expected to uphold the law, they must also be held to the same standards as everyone else. The outcome of the trial will be closely watched by both the public and the law enforcement community.