A conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) in California can lead to serious criminal penalties and other sanctions. However, if you are found to be under the influence and the cause of a crash that injured someone else, those penalties will increase with an additional criminal charge for DUI with Injury.
A DUI-defense attorney can help you defend against these charges by raising effective defenses to the evidence presented by the prosecutor. If you have been charged with DUI with Injury in or near Los Angeles, William S. Kroger can be your best option to beat the accusations and protect your future.
Charges for DUI With Injury in California
California has some of the strictest laws dealing with driving under the influence, the result of an emphatic attempt to keep drunk and drugged drivers off the road. One of these laws is California Vehicle Code 23153, which lays additional penalties on inebriated drivers who cause a crash that hurts someone else. Acting as a deterrent to inebriated drivers, Vehicle Code 23153 aims to make intoxicated drivers think twice about getting behind the wheel of a car.
In so doing, though, Vehicle Code 23153 can further penalize people who are wrongfully considered to be “under the influence” by California's vague or draconian standards.
Elements of DUI Causing Injury
In order for the prosecutor to prove their case that you violated Vehicle Code 23153, they will have to show three things:
- You were driving while under the influence
- You either drove negligently or violated another traffic law while you were driving
- This mistake caused an accident that hurt someone else
Each one of these requirements is not easy, and each one can be challenged with evidence that shows your innocence.
Driving Under the Influence
First, to be convicted under Vehicle Code 23153, prosecutors will have to show that you were violating California's laws against drunk or drugged driving.
This typically requires a showing that you were either under the influence of drugs, had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or over the legal limit of 0.08%, were under the legal alcohol limit but still too intoxicated to drive safely, or under the influence of both alcohol and drugs at the time of the arrest.
However, there are several other ways to violate DUI laws in California, like if you are a commercial driver and have to abide by the lower BAC standard of 0.04%, or if you were underage at the time of the incident.
Committing a Driving Error
Second, the prosecutor has to show that, while you were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you made a driving error. This can either take the form of a traffic code violation or a simple act of negligence.
Examples of violating a traffic code in California include:
- Crossing the median line into the oncoming lane
- Changing lanes without signaling
- Running a red light
Meanwhile, negligent driving is much more vague and can include just about anything that a reasonably cautious driver would not do, but that is not explicitly prohibited by California's Vehicle Code.
Causing a Crash that Hurts Someone Else
Finally, the prosecutor needs to show that there is a solid connection between the driving error and the car crash. In this way, California's law is less strict than some other states, which presume that inebriation caused the crash, and put the onus to you to show that the crash was someone else's fault. Instead, in California, it is up to the prosecutor to show that you were the one who caused the crash.
This is important because there are lots of accidents that can happen while you are driving negligently or breaking a traffic law, and that is still not the result of your driving error. For example, if a traffic light at an intersection turns green and you pass over the center line while passing through, and then get slammed into from the side by someone who ran their red light, driving on the wrong side of the road would not have been the cause of the crash.
Additionally, the injury has to be suffered by someone else: You cannot face a charge of DUI causing injury if you were the only person to get hurt.
Penalties for DUI Causing an Injury in California
A DUI that causes an injury under Vehicle Code 23153 can be pursued either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of your case and on your criminal history. The penalties that you could face if you get convicted are considerably higher if the offense is a felony.
Felony or Misdemeanor?
Generally, DUIs with an injury under Vehicle Code 23153 is a misdemeanor offense. However, there are several circumstances that would turn the offense into a felony-level charge:
- You have already been convicted for DUI with an injury in the past ten years
- You have a criminal background that includes other serious offenses
- The injury that the crash produced was a serious one
- There were other aggravating factors in your crash
Unfortunately, whether the prosecutor pursues a felony or a misdemeanor is not a simple question to answer. Instead, it is largely in the discretion of the prosecutor as to which type of charge to file. This makes Vehicle Code 23153 a wobbler, which means it “wobbles” between a felony and a misdemeanor.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Convictions for DUI Causing an Injury
If you end up being convicted for a misdemeanor offense of DUI with injury, you would face the following range of penalties:
- Between five days and one year in jail
- Between $390 and $5,000 in fines
- Restitution to the injured parties
- Three to five years of summary probation
- Attendance at a California DUI school program ranging from three months to 30 months
- A drivers' license suspension of between one and three years
- Higher insurance premiums
- Up to three years of an Ignition Interlock Device in your car
The court also has the discretion to impose higher penalties if there were aggravating factors in your circumstances, like if you were arrested with a very high BAC, or if you were driving with a child in your car.
Penalties for Felony Convictions for DUI With Injury
If the charge you are facing is a felony level offense, the penalties of a conviction would be higher:
- Between two and four years in jail, plus three to six more years in jail if the injury was very severe, plus another year for each additional person injured in the crash
- Between $1,015 and $5,000 in fines
- Attendance at a California DUI school program ranging from 18 to 30 months
- A five-year revocation of your drivers' license
- Three years with a Habitual Traffic Offender Status
Criminal courts still retain the discretion to increase these penalties if there were aggravating factors in your case.
Los Angeles Legal Defenses to Injury-Causing DUI
A charge of driving under the influence and causing an injury under Vehicle Code 23153 is a complicated one, involving lots of elements. Each element that the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, though, presents a skilled DUI-defense attorney with another way of defending you against the charge. This is why many charges for DUI with an injury are eventually reduced to simple DUIs.
The most common way to defend against a charge of DUI with injury is to challenge the determination that you were “under the influence.” This involves challenging the ways that evidence was gathered to show that you were inebriated, like field sobriety tests and breath tests. Each of these evidence gathering techniques is fraught with problems and inaccuracies, allowing skilled DUI-defense lawyers to inject reasonable doubts into a prosecutor's case.
The accusation that you committed a driving error can also be challenged, as well. While the traffic code in California covers lots of different aspects of driving, it does not cover every possible situation on the road. This leaves plenty of circumstances where the prosecutor will have to show that you were doing something that a “reasonable driver” would not have done – a vague standard that is ripe for challenges.
Finally, many car accidents are complicated, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly who was the ultimate cause of the collision. It is up to the prosecutor to show that you were the one who caused it through an act of negligence or a violation of the traffic code. Successfully challenging their evidence that you were the cause of the crash can drag the prosecutor's case to a halt.
Los Angeles DUI-Defense Lawyer William S. Kroger
William S. Kroger is a drug defense and DUI-defense lawyer with law offices in Los Angeles. If you have been accused of driving under the influence – whether under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both – and caused a crash that hurt someone in Los Angeles, you need a legal defense to prevent the accusation from turning into a conviction.
Defense attorney William S. Kroger can help. Contact him online or call his law office in Los Angeles at (323) 655-5700.