Vehicular Crimes Victim's Information

The Phoenix Police Department regrets your family member has been involved in a serious traffic collision. If you have lost a loved one in a traffic fatality, we extend our sincere condolences.

This pamphlet is intended to provide information for those who have had a loved one seriously injured or killed in a traffic collision. It is our hope this information will assist you during this difficult time by providing answers to many questions you may have during the coming days and weeks.

This pamphlet has been organized in a question-and-answer format so you may find answers to specific questions quickly. Some of this information may provide more detail than you are comfortable with at this time. If so, we suggest you ask a trusted friend or family member to read this for you so the immediate decisions you need to make will be informed ones. This pamphlet can then be put away until such time as you feel ready to review it.

Phoenix Police Department
Vehicular Homicde Unit
620 West Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85003



If you have not already done so, contact a support person to be with you immediately. The emotional and physical assistance of family members, trusted friends, and/or clergy is crucial during this difficult time. Below are several resources which may help you find help in the loss of a loved one.

Hospice of the Valley Grief Support: www.hov.org/grief-support

Compassionate Friends: www.compassionatefriends.org

National Alliance for Grieving Children: www.nationalallianceforgrievingchildren.org

AARP: www.aarp.org/family/lifeafterloss

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org



When a death occurs within the jurisdiction of Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner, any organ donation must be authorized by a Medical Examiner. If your loved one is an organ donor or if organ donation is something you or a lawful representative would consider and  an organ donation is possible, contact Donor Network of Arizona at 602-222-2000 or 800-94-DONOR. The donor network will then contact the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner for authorization provided that your loved one is a viable donor.

"Your loved one may be able to help others through the gift of tissue donation and actually restore sight and mobility to people in great need.  Donor Network is the official federally designated, not for profit organization responsible for working with families to carry out this decision of generosity toward others.  A representative from Donor Network may be calling within the next 12 hours to speak to your family if this is a possibility.  They can be reached at 602-222-2200 or 1-800 94- Donor." - Donor Network of Arizona


Your loved one will be (or has been) transported to the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner (OME). If you wish to have a specific mortuary handle the funeral arrangements, the OME must be notified of your preference. Due to space limitations, you (or the funeral home you selected) must call the OME at 602-506-1138 by 5:00 PM on the day of (or, in some cases, the day following) your loved ones arrival at the OME.

Example: if your loved one arrives at the OME before 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the OME generally needs to be notified by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday. If he/she arrives at the OME after 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the OME must be notified by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

If timely contact with the OME is not made, your loved one will be released to the next available funeral home on the OME rotation list. If you have any questions about this please call the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner at 602-506-3322 or 602-506-1138.



Injured parties in a collision are transported to local hospitals. The selection of a particular hospital is based on several factors such as the location of the collision, treatment needs of the injured person, immediate availability of specialized equipment and hospital personnel, et cetera.

The Police Officer or Detective who has contacted you will provide you with the name and address of the hospital to which your loved one has been transported. (See local hospital list on page 5 and 6) Receiving the news a loved one has been involved in a collision is very frightening and distressing. For your safety, please consider having a friend or family member drive you to the hospital.  


In the information that follows, your loved one is referred to as the "victim", meaning the victim of a death resulting in a traffic collision (not necessarily a victim of a criminal act). Any criminal responsibility will be determined based on the police investigation and appropriate review by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office or the Phoenix City Prosecutor's Office.

This terminology is not meant to minimize the loss of your loved one, nor is it intended to reflect any insensitivity to your grief or loss.

When a victim is removed from the collision scene, he/she is transported to the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner. It is not the policy of the OME to request or allow visual identification of the victim by anyone once the victim arrives at their facility. A licensed doctor with the Maricopa Medical Examiner Office will perform an examination (which may include an autopsy) usually within 24 hours. This is required by law.


The victim is transported to the OME by the OME transportation service. You have the right to select the mortuary of your choice to handle funeral arrangements. As previously indicated, you must contact the OME by a specific time to ensure that your funeral home preference is honored. Transportation from the OME will be provided by the funeral home.

Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner:

701 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85003
Front desk: 602-506-3322, Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Investigations: 602-506-1138, 7 days a week / 24 hours a day

Any personal effects brought with your loved one to the OME will, in most cases, be released to the funeral home after the examination has been completed.

Information such as cause of death or Medical Examiner's report will typically be available between 90 and 180 days after the exam. To obtain copies of the OME report call 602-506-3322.

Obtaining copies of the death certificate will be issued by the state or county office of vital statistics, usually through the funeral home.

Additional helpful telephone numbers:

  • Public Fiduciary: 602-506-5801
  • County Vital Statistics: 602-506-6805
  • State Vital Statistics: 602-364-1300
  • Mexican Consulate: 602-242-8560



The Maricopa County Adult Probation Victim Services Unit is able to provide assistance to victims of crime or the family of the victim, in a respectful, professional, and timely manner. They accomplish this by providing the following:

  • Information regarding restitution
  • Training
  • Referrals to other agencies
  • Information about probation and the court
  • Outreach services
  • Collaborative efforts
  • Maricopa County Adult Probation Department

Victim Services Unit
620 West Jackson Street, Suite 3098
Phoenix, Arizona 85003
Phone: 602-372-8286
Toll Free: 866-372-8286
Fax: 602-506-5952
Email: vsu@apd.maricopa.gov


The hospital where your loved one was taken is a valuable resource in matters related to special medical care which may be required as a result of the traffic collision. A medical social worker (a hospital employee) can assist your family in a variety of ways.


The mortuary handling the funeral arrangements is an important source for assistance in matters related to your loved one's death. They can provide copies of the death certificate to you. They may also provide bereavement literature and assist with identifying business tasks you may need to address during the upcoming weeks and months.  



The Phoenix Police Department makes every effort to contact the next-of-kin as quickly and compassionately as possible. Speedy notification is not always possible due to a variety of factors, such as:

  • The victim or injured person had no identification and there was no identification in the vehicle.
  • If an injured person was transported to the hospital, identification may not have been possible until medical treatment was completed.
  • At the scene, detectives may not have been able to access any possible identification until the immediate physical area around the victim has been processed. Altering this area by getting close enough to the victim to obtain identification may jeopardize the investigation.
  • No one was home.  Locating next-of-kin, especially those living out of state, may take some time.
  • The victim or injured person may be emotionally and/or geographically estranged from his/her spouse. Without a known legally recognized separation or divorce decree, the spouse is still the legal next-of-kin and is usually the one who will be notified. This may present some difficulty to other family members who believed they should be the ones notified by police.
  • The Phoenix Police Department's responsibility is to notify the first accessible next-of-kin, not all relatives. Family estrangements do not alter this responsibility. This is not callousness on the part of Phoenix Police Department. It is the Department's mandated priority. (see page 10).
  • To prevent a false notification of a traffic injury or fatality, Phoenix Police Department investigators want to be absolutely sure about the identity before a next-of-kin is notified. Occasionally, bystanders at a scene and/or individuals (such as friends or coworkers) think they know the identity of the victim or injured person. Detectives will not notify next-of-kin until the identity has been confirmed, and this may take some time.

If you have any questions regarding your notification of the traffic collision, contact the detective assigned to the case.



The Vehicular Crimes Unit of the Phoenix Police Department investigates serious traffic collisions and all traffic fatalities which occur in the City of Phoenix. Traffic incidents which occur on the interstate highways and freeways are investigated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Please call 602-223-2000 for information on these collisions.

The involvement of the Vehicular Crimes Unit Detectives in an investigation, in and of itself, should not be construed to mean a crime has been committed. This unit investigates criminal and non-criminal traffic collisions. Any criminal responsibility will be determined based upon the police investigation and appropriate review by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office or Phoenix City Prosecutor's Office.

It is important to keep in mind the Police Department's first priority, as mandated by state law, is to determine what occurred and, where appropriate, to identify and cite or apprehend the individual(s) responsible.  This is not to say you, the family of the victim or injured person, are not important. The Phoenix Police Department believes you are very important.


If the person is alive at the collision scene, his/her medical needs take precedence over all scene investigation considerations. Once it has been determined a serious injury collision or traffic fatality has occurred, the scene is sealed off by police personnel and processing of evidence begins. The meticulous processing of the scene provides the factual information needed to determine what occurred. In many cases, evidence obtained at the scene may be critical to the outcome of the investigation. The time involved in processing the scene varies, but usually takes several hours.

A deceased victim may remain at the scene until such time removal will not jeopardize the critical scene processing. This can be particularly difficult for the family members who, understandably, want their loved one tended to as quickly as possible. The Phoenix Police Department is aware that in this area the needs of the family are often in direct conflict with the Phoenix Police Department's mandated investigative responsibilities. Every effort is made to authorize removal of the victim from the scene as soon as possible, given the constraints of the scene processing.


As previously stated on page 10, the priority of the Phoenix Police Department is to determine what happened and, if appropriate, to identify, locate and cite or arrest the person(s) responsible. During the investigation, families may experience frustration at the lack of information provided to them and/or the difficulty in making contact with the assigned detective who is often out of the office pursuing this and other investigations.

Families may still experience frustration because they are not being told everything about the investigation. Information may be withheld not only from the families, but also from other interested parties (e.g. the media, insurance companies, private citizens). Information is withheld only to preserve the integrity of the investigation. We believe it is better for the families to be alerted to this before it happens. As the investigation continues, the assigned detective will keep you as informed as possible.

To facilitate timely dissemination of the information throughout the investigation, we suggest families select a single family representative to handle communication between the police department and the family.

As part of any vehicular collision investigation, detectives must gather information. This includes asking questions, which may be painful or upsetting to family members and friends. It may also include collecting a variety of evidentiary items such as documents, vehicles, et cetera (see page 14 for information on impounded property).

As painful and upsetting as these questions may be, please keep in mind they are necessary and required in an investigation. If there is something the detective can do for you to minimize the pain of this process, such as calling a friend or family member to be with you, please let him/her know.

You are encouraged to contact the assigned detective and/or your Victim Services Specialist or volunteer if you have any questions regarding the investigation.


The role in the Phoenix Police Department is to investigate the collision and determine what occurred. A patrol officer or a Vehicular Crimes Unit Detective may issue a traffic citation and/or submit an investigative report to the appropriate prosecuting agency. The criteria used for determining whether a civil traffic infraction or a criminal violation has occurred are articulated in the Arizona Revised Statutes. The Statutes explain that every collision that causes a death or serious physical injury is not automatically a result of a criminal act. Thus, it is possible the person(s) responsible for a traffic fatality or serious injury may only receive a traffic citation if found to be at fault for the collision. Understandably, this can be very difficult for the family members who have had a loved one injured or killed in a collision.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office prosecutes felony charges and the Phoenix City Prosecutor's Office prosecutes misdemeanor charges. All jurisdictions determine whether or not to file charges; specific charges to be filed, plea bargaining, et cetera​ are determined by these prosecutorial agencies, not the Phoenix Police Department.

If criminal charges are filed, the pr​osecuting agency (i.e., Maricopa County Attorney's Office or Phoenix City Prosecutor's Office) will assign a Victim Advocate to the injured person (or, in the case of a fatality, to the victim's family). This Advocate will provide assistance throughout the criminal justice process. The assigned detective will still continue to provide investigative assistance until the case is resolved within the criminal justice system.


Vehicular Crimes Unit Detectives complete two reports:

1. The police report consists of a narrative of what occurred.  This report is given a departmental report (DR) number, which is the number you will need whenever you are asked for the police report number. A preliminary report may be available approximately 30 days after the traffic collision occurs.

2. The Arizona Crash Report consists of basic vehicle, driver, witness, and insurance information. The Arizona Crash Report will not be completed until the investigation is finalized.

Please note: If the collision involving your loved one is not criminal in nature or a person has not been arrested for the collision these reports may take several months to complete.

A copy of both report​s can be obtained by mail or by appearing in person at the Phoenix Police Department Public Records and Services Unit:

1717 E. Grant St., Suite 100,
Phoenix, AZ 85034-3401.​
Hours of operation are 8:00 am to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for city holidays.

If you have any other questions you can contact the Public Records and Services Unit by calling 602-534-1127.
Or online at:
Public Records


The Phoenix Police Department does not decide what the media does or does not report.  The Department takes no position on whether or not an injured person and/or a victim's family should contact or communicate with the media. This decision is entirely yours.


Under the provisions of Arizona Public Records Law, any interested party (e.g., the media, insurance companies, private citizens, et cetera) may request a copy of the departmental report (DR) related to any police investigated incident (including the traffic collision which injured or killed your loved one).  It can be disturbing for families to find out the media can obtain a copy of the police report once a written request is completed and the appropriate duplicating fees paid. Some information in the report may be restricted if release of it may harm the integrity of an ongoing investigation.  Your Victim Services Specialist or Volunteer can provide you with complete information on how to obtain copies of the police report and associated costs.  The specialist or volunteer cannot, however, respond to questions regarding the Arizona Public Records Law. We suggest you contact your local state senator and/or state representative with any questions or concerns you may have regarding this law.


The Phoenix Police Department will make every effort to promptly return your loved one's personal effects, provided these are not considered evidence.


All evidence, whether collected at the scene or obtained elsewhere, will be impounded by the Phoenix Police Department. Generally, if prosecution occurs, the evidence is retained by the Phoenix Police Department until release is authorized or ordered by the courts or prosecuting agency. This period of time is necessary so all the evidence remains intact in the event the outcome of the trial is overturned on appeal and a new trial is granted.

During criminal investigations many (or all) of the vehicles involved in the collision may be impounded as evidence. Access to an impounded vehicle must be authorized by the prosecuting agency (i.e., Phoenix City Prosecutors Office or Maricopa County Attorney's Office). A court order may have to be obtained to access the vehicles involved which includes visual and physical access.

The property will not be released until the charges have been adjudicated. In some cases the property, including vehicles, will not be released until 80% of the sentence has been served. Thus, unsolved criminal vehicular fatality cases remain open until they are solved. All evidence is retained by the Phoenix Police Department on open vehicular crimes cases.

The Assigned Detective can provide you with the specific details on the condition of property that is available for release and how to obtain this property (including vehicles).


If a vehicle involved in the collision belongs to your loved one, contact the insurance company that insures that vehicle as soon as possible.

The assigned detective may be able to provide you with insurance information (if the vehicle is insured) and other details (e.g., driver name(s), vehicle description, registration information, et cetera) on all the vehicles involved in the collision to assist in the timely recovery of insurance proceeds.

If the assigned detective is unable to provide insurance information on a vehicle, contact the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles located at 1801 West Jefferson Street in Phoenix or at 602-255-0072.

Uninsured vehicles can be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles by calling 602-255-0072.

(Applies to criminal cases only)

As a victim of a crime in Arizona, you have a constitutional right to be treated with fairness, respect, dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, or abuse throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.  All state, county, municipal justice agencies and courts in Arizona are required to perform certain duties to ensure you receive your rights. Refer to page 22 and 23.

You are considered a victim for victims' rights purposes if the offense committed against you is:

  • A felony
  • A misdemeanor involving physical injury
  • The threat of physical injury
  • A sexual offense

If a person is killed or incapacitated, the person's spouse, parent, child, or other lawful representative is considered to be the victim or the victim's lawful representative.

As a victim, some rights are automatic and some rights must be requested by you.  For a complete list of your rights may request or waive refer to page 22 and 23.

If you have any questions regarding victims' rights, please call your Victim Services Specialist:

Misdemeanor cases:
Phoenix City Prosecutor's Office Victims' Services Unit 602-261-8192

Felony cases:
Maricopa County Victim Witness Program 602-506-8522
Juvenile Victim's Rights Programs 602-372-4000


(Applies to criminal cases only)


In Arizona, victim compensation is funded by fees paid by convicted felons.  The state, through local boards, disburses compensation to eligible victims of crime.

The Victim Compensation Bureau provides financial compensation to victims of violent crimes in Maricopa County for medical expenses, counseling costs, funeral costs, and lost wages directly resulting from a crime that are not covered by any other collateral resources.

You may be eligible for compensation if:

  • The crime was reported within 72 hours of discovery
  • A claim is filed within two years of the crime's discovery
  • You willingly cooperate with law enforcement agencies
  • The crime directly resulted in physical injury, extreme mental distress or death
  •  You are not serving a felony prison, probation, or parole sentence

Property loss, pain and suffering, and legal costs are not compensable.
For more information, contact the Victim Compensation Bureau at 602-506-4955.

(Applies to criminal cases only)

Restitution is an order by the court for the offender to reimburse a victim for out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the crime.

Restitution is ordered at the time of sentencing and may include amounts for lost property, medical, funeral, counseling costs, and lost wages.  Restitution cannot be ordered for pain and suffering.  If a jail or prison term is ordered, the adult offender will begin paying restitution upon release.  The Judge will order the defendant to pay restitution in a monthly sum to the Clerk of the Court.  The Clerk of the Court is responsible for disseminating checks to all of the victims or agencies (e.g. insurance companies) that suffered out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the crime.


If criminal charges are filed and if the defendant is convicted, the injured person or in the case of a fatality, the decedent's spouse, parent, child, or other lawful representative may be eligible for restitution (repayment for expenses incurred as a direct result of being a crime victim).  This may include lost wages, property damage, mental health counseling, and other uninsured expenses.  A judge will determine whether restitution is to be paid and, if so, how much.

If you want to request restitution, you must provide the following information and send it to the Phoenix City Prosecutor's Office (Attn: Victims  Services Unit, 300 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, Arizona, 85030, 602-261-8192) within 10 days.

You will need to provide the following information to the Victims' Services Unit:

  • Victim Information (name, address, city, state, zip, daytime telephone number, message number)
  • Report number (also called the DR number)
  • Citation number
  • Suspect's (Defendant's) name
  • List of costs incurred sorted into the following categories:
    • Property damage, vehicle damage, medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, other amount paid by insurance and the insurance deductible amount

Please attach copies of any receipts or bills (or, if damage has not been repaired, enclose two repair estimates) as proof of your claim.

If you do not return your request for restitution, the court may assume you did not incur any expenses or do not want restitution.  You may also fax your restitution information to the Victim Services Unit at 602-534-4540.

You will receive a confirmation letter from the Phoenix Prosecutor's Office when your restitution information is received.

Pain and suffering and punitive damages are not recoverable through the City of Phoenix Municipal Court and must be recovered in a civil suit.  Failure to seek or recover restitution in Municipal Court does not stop you from seeking civil damages in the appropriate civil court.

Any restitution awarded by a judge will be paid to the court and then forwarded to you.  You will be contacted by the court if you are awarded restitution.


If you want to ensure restitution is ordered, it will be important to keep receipts of your expenses.  When you are contacted by the pre-sentence investigator, inform him/her of your losses and mail the pre-sentence investigator copies of your receipts.  The pre-sentence investigator will then include a recommendation for restitution in his/her report to the Judge at the time of sentencing.

If you have any questions regarding restitution (felony cases), please contact the Victim Witness Advocate assigned to your case at 602-506-8526.


If your loved one has been killed in a traffic collision, in addition to funeral arrangements there are many decisions you will need to make and/or many items you may need to address during this difficult time. The following check list provides examples of some of these items. The list is not intended to be all-inclusive; rather it is designed to give you some ideas about the details that may require your attention in the upcoming days and weeks.

Certified Death Certificates will be required to receive any benefits and/or funds from trusts, annuities, insurance, social security, property transfers, bank accounts, et cetera. Certified death certificates are usually less expensive and easier to obtain from the mortuary when the funeral arrangements are made. It is suggested you order at least 10 copies initially and you contact the mortuary if more copies are needed.


  • Banks, trusts, et cetera - change name on account
  • Employer - check for any death benefits and/or life insurance policies
  • Credit unions - check for any benefits
  • Providers of any benefits paid regularly to the decedent when alive (i.e., pension benefits, social security benefits, et cetera)

Check on:

  • Life and/or Accident insurance - any benefits and/or unused premiums?
  • Profit sharing plans or 401K program benefits
  • Automobile insurance - any benefits and/or unused premiums?
  • Veterans' Administration benefits (if decedent was a veteran)
  • Benefits from Social Security Administration for spouse and minor children (1-800-722-1213)
  • Collect any debts owed to the Deceased
  • Review your present financial situation

If needed, seek emergency aid from the Department of Economic Security, food stamps at 602-542-9935 or online at www.azdes.gov/

Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, AHCCS, 602-542-9935 or 602-417-4000 or online at www.azahcccs.gov/

  • Keep an up to date accounting of cash income and expenses
  • Obtain hospital and medical statements as soon as possible
  • Pay all bills and taxes owed as soon as possible (funeral, income tax, real estate, home mortgage, hospital, et cetera)
  • Check to see if Credit Life Insurance was carried on any debts. These accounts can be closed.
  • File the Will with Probate Court within 30 days, if necessary. The Legal Aid Society (Community Legal Services 602-258-3434) or a lawyer can advise you on this.
  • If the deceased lived alone, the following must be considered: pets,  newspapers, mail, phone, utilities, et cetera.


Automatic Rights

To be advised of all victims' rights and how to assert them.
To information on the availability of crisis intervention, medical and emergency service, information on victim assistance programs and domestic violence resources.
To be advised of the date, time, and location of the initial appearance of the suspect arrested or cited.
To be provided with the police report number, if available, and if the case has been submitted to a prosecutor's office, information on how to contact that office.
To be notified if the prosecutors office declines to file charges, and notice of what charges are being filed.
To have your home address, employer's name and address withheld from the defendant and his representative.
To refuse to interview with the defendant and anyone working on the defendant's behalf. This also applies to the parent or legal guardian if a minor who exercises victims' rights on behalf if the minor child.
To be present at any court proceedings at which the defendant has the right to be present.
To name an appropriate support person, who is not a witness to accompany you to any interview, deposition, or court proceedings.
To have the court provide appropriate safeguards to minimize contact between you and the defendant.
To be heard at any proceedings concerning the release of the accused person, a plea agreement, and the sentencing. (with some limitations if the defendant is facing the death penalty)
To speak with the pre-sentence investigator be the sentencing, to give a sentencing recommendation, and to read the pre-sentence report when it is available to the defendant.
To have the court order restitution and to receive that restitution
To leave work (if eligible) at attend scheduled legal proceedings, or obtain and order of protection or injunction against harassment. (in accordance with A.R.S. 13-4439)


To confer with the prosecutor about the decision not to proceed with a prosecution, dismissal of the charges, pretrial diversion programs, any plea or sentencing negotiations, and at any hearing regarding the release of the defendant. You also have the right to confer with the prosecutor prior to trial. (these rights do not include the authority to direct the prosecution of the case)
To request the prosecutor assert any right which you are entitled.
To receive a free copy of the police report and/or court transcripts. (in accordance with A.R.S 39-127)
To receive a free copy of the conditions of the suspects release from custody.
To be given notice of the release on bond of the suspect.
To receive notice of all court proceedings at which the defendant has a right to be present.
To the return of all the personal property taken during the course of the investigation, and if the property cannot be returned, be advised of the reason.
To be advised of the sentence imposed on the defendant.
To be given notice of any post-conviction release or appeals proceedings.
To be given notice of any hearing in which release from prison is being considered, the right to be present and heard at that hearing, and to be advised of the result.
To be advised of the earliest possible release date of a prisoner sentenced to the Department of Corrections (if the sentence exceeds six months), and notice before the release of the prisoner or, if the prisoner has died, notice of the death.
To receive notice of any probation revocation disposition or probation termination proceeding. You also have the right to be notified if any modification of probation which will substantially affect your safety or the probationer's contact with you, or which will affect restitution or the probationer's incarceration status.
To be notified, upon request, of the escape and re-arrest of the accused or convicted person. (this includes a person placed by the court order in a mental health treatment agency)  
If there is any conflict of interest or disagreement between you and the prosecutor, you have the right to:
Be directed to the appropriate legal assistance and
Be represented by your own attorney at your own expense