PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Jerry Sanstead is facing charges of endangerment, aggravated assault, and manslaughter as a result of the deadly crash on Loop 101 near McDowell Road earlier this week.
Salt River Police Officer Clayton Townsend was killed in the crash. He was conducting a routine traffic stop. The driver he pulled over was also injured in the collision.
Sanstead bonded out of jail early Thursday morning.
"To be manslaughter, it has to be a conscious disregard of the substantial risk. The question is, is looking at your phone while driving a substantial risk? Given the number of people doing it, perhaps it's not substantial," said Jeffrey Mehrens, a defense attorney not affiliated with the case.
Mehrens said he's never seen or heard of a distracted driving case charged as manslaughter.
"I think this is a civil suit. I don't think this is a crime, I think at best it's negligent homicide," Mehrens said. "But no, I don't think it's manslaughter, it's not a substantial risk to check your phone."
According to court documents, Sanstead told investigators that he was on his way home from work and texting his wife about evening plans. He explained that he was reading messages and responding using the voice-to-text feature.
"Everybody does this. This is not a substantial risk. People check their stereos, people turn the air down, turn the air up, turn the heat on, people look at their phones. Occasionally, an accident is going to happen, that's what accidents are. This is a civil suit, this is not a crime," Mehrens said.
Sanstead also told investigators that he knew he shouldn't have been on his phone.
There are no laws in the state of Arizona that ban texting while driving, but Mehrens believes that could change.
"I think this was the tipping point and the law will change after this."
Sanstead's lawyer has not returned our request for a statement at this time.