DUI Causing Injury
Being involved in any type of DUI can be difficult, frightening, and overwhelming; especially if an injury has occurred. If you were involved in a DUI accident, you could be facing extremely severe penalties. This article will answer a number of questions regarding DUI Causing Injury cases and the associated penalties. If you or someone you know, has been charged with a DUI Causing Injury contact the San Diego DUI Attorney today for your FREE consultation. Our attorneys will aggressively defend your rights and will do everything in our power to ensure that your case results in the best possible outcome.
California Vehicle Code 23153: DUI Causing Injury
In California, a DUI Causing Injury is governed by Vehicle Code (VC) 23153. In essence, the code states that it is unlawful to operate a vehicle, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and concurrently cause injury to another by acting negligently or illegally. Depending on the case, a DUI Causing Injury can be brought as either felony or misdemeanor.
As the code points out, there are three distinct ways that a driver can be “under the influence”. First, if the driver’s ability to drive is impaired as a result of alcohol intoxication, they are considered under the influence. Second, if the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is greater than .08%, they are considered under the influence. Third, if the driver’s ability to drive is impaired as a result of the use of any drug, they are considered under the influence.
Additionally, to be convicted of VC 23153, the driver must cause injury to another by concurrently acting illegally or negligently. Basically, this means that the driver must, in addition to being under the influence, also be at fault for the injury.
The Elements of a DUI Causing Injury Case
Like in any criminal case, it is the prosecutions burden to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. VC 23153 – DUI Causing Injury contains the three following elements:
- The driver violated California’s Driving Under the Influence (DUI) law;
- The driver also acted illegally or negligently while driving; and
- The driver’s illegal or negligent behavior caused injury to another.
Typically, the first two elements are more difficult to prove than the third, and are more likely to be attacked in the defense of VC 23253 case. As such, they are discussed in further detail below.
Violating California’s DUI Law:
As discussed above, there are really three ways this element can be satisfied:
- The driver’s ability to operate their vehicle was impaired as a result of alcohol consumption;
- The driver’s BAC was greater than .08%; or
- The driver’s ability to operated their vehicle was impaired as a result of drug use.
Determining if someone’s BAC is over .08% is fairly simple. The driver will be given a breath or blood test, and the BAC will be revealed. California law assumes that if you have a BAC of over .08%, you are under the influence of alcohol. It does not matter if you have a high tolerance, or actually were not impaired. Even if there is no test or your BAC is under 0.8%, you can still be considered under the influence. In California, you are “under the influence” if you cannot drive in the manner of an ordinary sober person under the same circumstances. Under this scenario, proving that you were under the influence can be more difficult and there are a number of defenses that can be argued on your behalf. In many cases, there are a number of legitimate explanations as to why the defendant might have appeared to be under the influence. A health condition or even being frightened as a result of being pulled over can make someone appear under the influence. Our attorneys know how to defend your rights and will aggressively argue on your behalf if you were not in fact under the influence.
Acted Illegally or Negligently While Driving:
Just because you were involved in a DUI that resulted in injury doesn't necessarily mean you should be responsible for the injury. As the law states, you must cause the injury while concurrently breaking the law or acting negligently. Many people assume that simply because they were under the influence, this element is satisfied. While it is true that driving under the influence is illegal and negligent, this crime actually requires additional illegality or negligence (For example, speeding or running a red light while intoxicated). Conversely, it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which a driver, under the influence of alcohol, is hit by a sober driver who runs a red light. If the sober driver is injured in the accident, a DUI Causing Injury may be charged against the driver who had been drinking. However, in this scenario, the injury was not caused by the intoxicated driver. While a DUI charge would be appropriate, the more serious DUI Causing Injury charge would not. Of course if the intoxicated driver caused the accident by speeding or negligently operating the radio and an injury resulted, a DUI Causing Injury Charge could be sustained.
Common Penalties for DUI Causing Injury Cases
Like in any type of DUI, sentencing for a DUI Causing Injury will vary based on on a number of aggravating and mitigating factors. In addition to the facts of the case, the court will also consider the prior record of the defendant. If you have prior DUI incidents, you can expect to see your punishment increase accordingly. Further, if you have two prior DUI Causing Injury offenses, your third will automatically be filed as a felony. Considering the difference in penalties outlined below, it is extremely important to have an experienced attorney on your side. Consulting with a lawyer from the San Diego DUI Attorney, might be the difference between facing a felony and facing a misdemeanor.
If you are charged with a Misdemeanor DUI Causing Injury, you can expect a penalty along these lines:
- A fine ranging from $350 - $5,000.
- Summary Probation (informal or unsupervised) ranging from 3 – 5 years.
- Payment of restitution to all injured parties.
- License suspension ranging from 1 - 3 years from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
- A county jail sentence ranging from 5 days – 1 year.
- A court-approved alcohol or drug education program for up to 30 months.
Of course, the penalties for Felony DUI Causing Injury are more severe:
- A fine ranging from $1,015 - $5,000.
- A license revocation of 5 years from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
- 2 - 4 years in California State Prison.
- 3 - 6 additional years in California State Prison if the persons injured sustained great bodily injury as a result of the accident.
- 1-year for each additional person that suffered an injury with a maximum additional term of 3 years.
- The title of Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) for a period of 3 years.
- A strike on your record under the California Three Strikes Law.
How the San Diego DUI Attorney will defend your DUI Causing Injury Case
In order to prove a DUI Causing Injury case, the prosecutor must first establish that you were violating California’s DUI law. As such, many of the arguments used for defending a common DUI case will be applicable to your DUI Causing Injury case. Our attorneys will be prepared to argue that you were not actually under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, we will examine and point out any inaccuracies or inconsistencies in your blood or breath test. Our attorneys are also trained to carefully inspect the arrest reports and to make sure that all testing and police conduct complied with the law.
If necessary, we may consult with an accident expert who has special training in independently reconstructing accident scenes to determine who was at fault. Often times, the police may inaccurately jump to the conclusion that the person who had been drinking was responsible for the accident. This can influence the way the investigation is conducted, and how the facts are indicated in the police report. Our expert will reenact the accident scene, detailing factors such as weather, road conditions, and the damage caused to each vehicle. Using this information, the reconstruction expert is able to evaluate whether or not the accident that caused the injuries was actually the fault of the client.
Other Offenses Related to DUI Causing Injury
If you were charged with a DUI Causing Injury, you may have also been charged with additional related crimes. Common related offenses include:
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated – California Penal Code 191.5
If a death occurred during your DUI incident, you may have been charged with more serious crime of Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated. Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated is very similar to DUI Causing Injury. The only distinction being that the driver causes the death of another person, rather than the serious injury of another person. There is also a more severe crime known as Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated. Rather than simply breaking the law or acting negligently while driving, Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated requires that the driver was acting in a way that was likely to result in the death of another person.
A Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated case will be defended very similarly to a DUI Causing Injury. Often times, the police will rush to judgment, and assume that the intoxicated party was responsible for the accident. Because of this, an independent expert is often used to reconstruct the accident scene and accurately determine who was at fault. If it can be proven that the victim, or a third party, caused the accident, a Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated charge is not appropriate.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated, you can expect to face a penalty of up to one year in county jail. The felony charge is much more severe, and carries a penalty of up to 4 years in prison (possibly more depending on the number of deaths).
Watson Murder – Second Degree Murder
In some cases, when a death results from a DUI accident, second degree murder charges can be brought. These are referred to as “Watson Murders”. A Watson Murder is the most serious DUI offense, and will typically only be charged if it can be proven that you were specifically aware of the dangers of driving under the influence. This usually requires a prior DUI incident.
Felony Hit and Run Involving Injury or Death – California Vehicle Code 20001
After an accident, the law requires that you stop to provide your information to the other party, and to provide reasonable assistance to anyone requiring medical attention. This is true even if you were not at fault. If you failed to stop after your DUI Causing Injury, you likely have been charged with a Felony Hit and Run Involving Injury or Death.
In some cases, a driver will be falsely accused of committing a hit and run. For example, if your vehicle was involved in an accident, but you were not the driver, you should not be charged with a hit and run.
If you are convicted of a felony hit and run, you will face a sentence of up to 4 years in prison.
Child Endangerment – California Penal Code 273(a)
If you had a minor under the age of 14 in your car at the time of your DUI Causing Injury incident, you are subject to being charged with Child Endangerment. If you are charged, you could face an additional sentence of up to 6 years in California state prison.
If you were arrested for a DUI Causing Injury, or any of these related offenses, you could be subject to a number of severe penalties. Hiring an attorney as soon as possible will give you the best chance to beat your case. Our lawyers want to help, and know exactly what to look for when evaluating your case. Don’t wait. Contact the San Diego DUI Attorney today at 619-535-7150 for your FREE consultation.