Driving Under the Influence Causing Injury
Santa Barbara DUI Attorney
California Vehicle Code §23153(a) states that it is unlawful for a person to drive under the influence and cause bodily injury to another person. This includes driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or the combination of both substances. Prosecutors can only charge a motorist with DUI causing injury if the driver injured someone other than him/herself. DUI causing injury may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances of the accident and the driver's previous criminal convictions. Prior DUI offenses will probably result in a felony allegation.
A Brief History of California's DUI Laws
California first enacted drunk driving laws in 1911. At the time, the law only prohibited "driving while intoxicated." The ambiguity of the statute eventually led lobbyists to promote stiffer DUI restrictions. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), an organization committed to eradicating drunk driving in the United States, encouraged the state to rewrite its DUI laws in the 1980s. During this time, lawmakers introduced new legislation that disallowed drivers from operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The new law also stated that it was unlawful to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .10%. In 1989, the vehicle code lowered the BAC threshold to its current standard (.08%) and introduced new penalties for DUI causing injury.
Understanding Vehicle Code §23152
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense, especially if it involves bodily injury. According to the law, it is unlawful to cause an injury while driving drunk. Additionally, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08% that causes bodily injury to another person. VC §23153 also includes certain acts of negligence. Specifically, the law forbids drivers from disregarding law with a BAC of .08% that results in the bodily injury of another human being. A driver is considered under the influence if chemical testing reveals that his/her BAC exceeds the legal limit within three hours of operating a motor vehicle.
DUI causing injury involves three factors: Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, committing an additional traffic offense, and injuring another person. In order to face a conviction, all three of these elements must be in place or prosecution will charge you with a different crime. If a driver was involved in an accident with a BAC of .08%, he/she is not automatically responsible for the other party's injuries. For instance, you would not be charged with DUI causing injury if you drove under the influence and were involved in an accident because another driver cut you off. This scenario does not involve an additional act of negligence.
However, you might be charged with DUI causing injury if police found that you drove drunk, cut another driver off and caused a serious car accident. If law enforcement pulled you over while driving a commercial motor vehicle, prosecutors must only demonstrate that your BAC was .04%. Commercial drivers are held to a stricter BAC threshold than typical motorists. However, prosecutors must still demonstrate that you drove under the influence, committed an act of negligence, and caused an injury in order to obtain a conviction.
If you did not commit an additional traffic offense or act of negligence, you will probably face a standard DUI charge instead.
Sentencing & Penalties for DUI Causing Injury
DUI causing injury is punishable by probation, incarceration, fines, and other penalties. If you are charged with misdemeanor DUI with injury, you could face three to five years of informal probation, one year in a county jail, and a $5,000 fine. The court could also order a three, nine, 18, or 30-month alcohol drug education program. The program must be court-approved and is often referred to as California DUI school. If convicted of DUI with injury, you may be required to pay financial restitution to anyone who suffered an injury as a result of the DUI.
- Felony DUI causing injury is punishable by the following legal consequences:
- Two, three, or four years in a state prison
- Three to six additional years in prison for each person that suffered serious bodily injury
- One additional year in prison for each person that suffered any type of injury
- A fine, ranging from $1,015 to $5,000
- 18 or 30 months in a California DUI education program
- Three years under habitual traffic offender (HTO) status
- Five years of driver's license revocation
Fighting Allegations of DUI with Injury
A skilled criminal defense attorney can combat allegations of DUI causing injury like a standard DUI. For instance, the defense might demonstrate that you were not actually under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or that the test methods used to determine your BAC were inaccurate. Other factors include the weather, road conditions, and the actions of other drivers. For instance, a reputable DUI lawyer might be able to show that road conditions or severe weather conditions actually caused your accident – not an act of negligence eon your part.