Understanding the circumstances that result in facing a DUI with injury charge is crucial to your DUI case. We at Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer, have a strong presence in Orange County, helping drivers like you facing this type of serious charge. Our keen eye for detail when handling our clients’ DUI cases has positioned us among the best law firms in the region. Use this informative guide to learn more about the crime of DUI causing injury.
What is “DUI Causing Injury” Under California Law?
Pursuant to VC 23153, it is a crime to drive with alcohol in your system and cause bodily injury to a third party due to your negligence. You may face this criminal charge for having a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher when you were driving the car. VC 23153 also considers it a crime to drive a vehicle while intoxicated with any drug and cause bodily injury to a third party at that time. The individual who sustains bodily injury, in this context, can be a pedestrian or driver of the other car involved in the accident.
Prosecutors may draw three different conclusions when suggesting that you drove under the influence at the time someone else was injured. They may implicate you for violating VC 23152(a), which is the California law against driving under the influence. They may also charge you for driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater (under VC 232152b) or driving while intoxicated with drugs (under VC 23152 f).
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a standard measure used in determining the level of alcohol intoxication in alleged DUI offenders. BAC is typically the amount of alcohol flowing in your bloodstream. Your BAC test result may be as a measure of grams of alcohol in every 210 l (liters) of breath or alcohol grams in every 100 ml (milliliters) of blood.
What are the Aggravating Factors that Make a DUI With Injury Charge Severe?
Aggravating factors of a DUI charge are usually the facts and circumstances surrounding the charge itself following your arrest. Your DUI with injury charge may bear severe consequences if it is surrounded by any of these factors. Outlined below are the most common ones:
Refusing to take a chemical breath or blood test
Driving with a 0.15% BAC or more
Operating a vehicle at excessive speeds
Being under the age of 21
Having a child (under 14 years of age) in the vehicle
The Arrest and Investigation Process for a “DUI with Injury” Case
Most “DUI with injury” cases usually begin with the law enforcement officers being notified about a car accident resulting in bodily injury. Once the police officers rush to the accident scene, they should have a probable cause for arresting you. If you fled the scene after causing the accident, you risk having a hit and run criminal charge on your record. If you remained on the scene, the police officer may ask you to take a series of field sobriety tests and blow a breathalyzer to determine whether you were drunk.
Refusing to submit to the chemical breath test may result in penalties for the alleged DUI crime being severe. You also risk having a one-year suspension on your driving privileges. Once the breath test and field sobriety tests indicate that you are intoxicated, you will be arrested and booked in a local police station. You may post bail to secure your release. Upon release, the officer will issue you a citation to make future court appearances and a pink document (acting as a temporary license).
As of 2019, the State of California allows DUI arrestees to request a restricted driver's license after installing an IID in their vehicles. An IID (ignition interlock device) works like a breathalyzer programmed to keep your car from starting if alcohol is detected in your breath. With the IID restricted license, you will continue operating your car without any limitations. The timeframe for using this type of license will depend on your DUI history.
What if the DMV Suspends Your License?
The California DMV may impose a suspension on your license for a specified timeframe following your DUI with injury arrest. You can obtain a 30-day restricted license from the Department of Motor Vehicles to counter this suspension. Failing to obtain the restricted license or driving with a suspended license may result in a longer license suspension, probation violation, and possible jail time.
One of your rights as an alleged DUI driver is to request a DMV hearing 10 days following your arrest. The DMV will impose an automatic license suspension in thirty days if you do not request this hearing. DMV hearings help determine whether alleged DUI drivers should regain their driving privileges. A win in this kind of administrative proceeding will not translate to a win in your court hearing for the DUI with injury offense.
What Penalties Does a “DUI With Injury” Conviction Carry?
The consequences of being convicted of a crime of DUI with injury depend on the facts surrounding your specific case. Your conviction will also be based on whether the DUI with injury is a first-time or second-time DUI offense within a 10-year window. California's DUI laws categorize DUI offenses as priorable offenses. The penalties for a priorable offense increase with a subsequent conviction.
A third DUI causing injury offense qualifies as a felony under Vehicle Code 23153. The penalties for a crime of DUI causing injury will vary on whether the prosecutor charges it as a felony or misdemeanor. Besides these penalties, California courts usually mandate the defendants to have IID (ignition interlock devices) expertly installed in the car for a specified period.
Penalties for a Misdemeanor “DUI Causing Injury” Offense
Fines for this type of offense range from $390 to $5,000 while the county jail sentence ranges from five days to one year. You risk facing a one to three-year suspension of your state-issued driver's license. With an IID expertly installed in your car for six months, you may continue operating the car without limitation. Other forms of punishment for this offense include restitution to the injured party and informal probation ranging from three to five years.
Penalties for a Felony “DUI Causing Injury” Offense
A felony DUI with injury offense may attract fines ranging from $1,015 to $5,000 and a prison term ranging from two to four years. You risk facing a three to a six-year additional prison sentence if the victim sustains great bodily injury and an additional one-year sentence for every victim. A conviction for this crime will also result in having a strike on your record if the victim sustains great bodily injury.
California courts usually recommend defendants convicted of DUI with injury to attend a court-approved DUI school for eighteen to thirty months. They also impose the HTO (Habitual Traffic Offender) status on the convicted individuals for three years. Though you may face five-year license revocation for a VC 23153 conviction, you may regain your driving privileges after installing an IID in your car for at least one year.
Are There Additional Probation Conditions for a DUI with Injury Conviction?
California courts usually impose probation in addition to the penalties of a DUI with injury conviction. One of the conditions of the probation cautions against committing any additional offenses or driving with any measurable alcohol amount in your system. You are also cautioned against refusing to submit to a chemical blood or breath test following a subsequent DUI arrest. The additional conditions of probation are as follows:
Restituting the victim
Participating in a MAAD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Victim Impact Program
Attending Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
Does a “DUI With Injury” Conviction Have Any Immigration Consequences?
A “DUI with injury” conviction may result in inadmissibility or deportation to a non-US citizen under various circumstances. They include being convicted for driving while under the influence of drugs or drug addiction and having multiple convictions for drunk or drugged driving. If you are an undocumented immigrant, you risk facing deportation once arrested for a DUI.
Both non-US citizens and US citizens are no longer admissible to Canada following any conviction. California law enforcement agencies usually put DUI arrests and convictions into the public domain. They will not inform the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) about your arrest or conviction for a DUI crime. However, your arrest or conviction may help the ICE locate you if you are unlawfully present in the country.
Multiple convictions for a DUI with injury crime may affect your ability to demonstrate good moral character as an immigrant. The good moral character determination is imposed on immigrants wishing to become US citizens through naturalization. Pursuant to the federal immigration law, being a habitual drunkard disqualifies you from having a good moral character.
Elements the Prosecutor Needs to Prove
The main task of the prosecutor in a DUI with injury case is to prove three facts of the case. Violation of California’s law on DUI is the first fact, and negligent driving is the second one. The prosecution team also needs to show how your unlawful driving or negligence injured a third party as the third fact.
You may be charged for violating California’s DUI laws by being intoxicated with alcohol or driving with a 0.08% BAC or greater. Driving with a drug or a combination of drugs in your system also qualifies as a violation of these laws. The prosecutor will argue your case by pointing your intoxication to physical or mental impairment. In this case, a driver who is physically or mentally impaired is incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.
Drivers of commercial vehicles can only face a DUI charge when they are driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.04 percent or more. If your vehicle is a commercial one, the prosecutor will have to show you exceeded this limit when charging you with a DUI causing injury crime. Discussed below are three elements of a DUI with injury crime:
Driving Under the Influence or with a 0.08% BAC or More
California’s DUI with injury law (VC 23153) considers being under the influence as a causative factor of physical or mental impairments. Alcohol is known to impair people’s physical or mental abilities making them incapable of driving with caution just like a sober driver would do under similar circumstances. When physically or mentally impaired, you may operate a vehicle negligently resulting in a car accident and injuring another person in the process.
The phrase “being under the influence” may refer to being intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. Drug types including over-the-counter, prescription, and illegal drugs that are known to impair people’s mental or physical abilities. In the case of alcohol intoxication, you will be violating the “per se” law when your BAC is 0.08% or higher. The per se law presumes that having this blood alcohol level makes you guilty of a DUI whether you were actually intoxicated with drugs or alcohol.
You Acted Negligently or Violated a Law
A DUI with injury is charged when the prosecutor can prove you acted negligently or otherwise violated a law besides driving under the influence. The charge will be based on your negligence or act that resulted in the other person sustaining an injury. Instances of negligent driving include speeding while under the influence or ignoring the traffic lights.
Legal Defenses for a “DUI Causing Injury” Charge in California
The legal defenses used in a DUI with injury case are the same as the ones used in any drunk driving charge. Your lawyer will take you through all the options for proving you were not intoxicated and your BAC was inaccurate or unlawfully reported. The attorney will also check whether the arresting officer adhered to all arrest, investigation, and chemical testing procedures. Any discrepancies in these procedures can offer you a chance to fight a DUI with injury charge.
Prosecutors take extreme measures when linking a car accident you caused to an injury sustained by someone else. Your criminal defense attorney may bring an accident reconstruction expert to challenge these allegations. The expert’s work will involve evaluating whether the car accident was as a result of your negligence. Accident reconstruction experts consider the road conditions, weather, and the amount of damage on the vehicle to understand the cause of the accident.
Since police officers most likely blame drunk drivers for car accidents once they arrive at the scene, legal defenses used in your favor should be effective. Your attorney can help you fight the charge by citing police misconduct or shifting the blame to the other driver. More detailed means to beat a DUI with injury case are as follows:
Errors in DUI Breath or Blood Tests
DIU breath tests may be subject to errors such as improper handling, instrument malfunction, radio frequency interference, and physiological conditions. Furthermore, breath testing is not the most accurate means to measure BAC following a DUI arrest. The test will only measure traces of alcohol in your breath rather than the actual amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. Your attorney can challenge the test results by considering them erroneous.
Inaccuracy in the DUI blood test may arise due to blood contamination, improper storage of blood samples, and blood fermentation. Your lawyer can prevent the blood test results from being used as evidence in your DUI with injury case. Filing a blood split motion can also help inquire about the DUI blood test and the storage of your blood sample.
No Signs of Mental Impairment
The arresting offer may consider signs such as slurred speech, poor coordination, red/watery eyes, and an unsteady gait as signs of physical impairment. You may exhibit them due to a current medical condition or fatigue. The first form of impairment related to alcohol or drugs usually presents itself as mental impairment. You can challenge claims regarding physical impairment by stating that you were mentally stable to operate your car.
Any proof of police misconduct in a DUI with injury case may weaken the case the prosecutor built against you. Police misconduct may entail inaccurate recording of DUI reports, failure to comply with Title 17 procedures, and wrongful arrest. A California court may order for the suppression of any illegally fabricated or obtained evidence. Your case may also have favorable outcomes once your lawyer proves the police misconduct instances.
Inaccurate Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)
Field sobriety tests help identify signs of physical impairment on an alleged DUI offender. The officer may ask you to take various exercises such as standing with one foot as part of the FSTs. One way to challenge the FST results is by arguing that they took place on uneven surface conditions. You can also link your poor performance in the test to poor lighting, uncomfortable footwear, officer-induced intimidation, and harsh weather conditions.
Failure to Read the Miranda Rights
You should be read your Miranda rights following a DUI arrest or when an officer conducts a custodial interrogation. The officer may use the custodial interrogation to elicit incriminating answers from you once arrested. If you were not read your Miranda rights, any subsequent statements from you cannot be used as evidence in your DUI with injury case.
You Were not Driving the Car Involved in the Accident
A DUI with injury charge will only suffice if you were the driver behind the wheel of the car that caused an injury to someone else. The prosecution team may find it difficult to prove you drove the car if no one sees you operating the car. They may also take time proving the charge if the police found you at the scene in a parked car.
Being arrested for committing a crime of DUI causing injury may increase your risk of facing additional charges. The prosecutor may add these charges on top of your case to make it difficult for you to beat them. Here are the most common ones you may face:
The crime of child endangerment is prosecuted pursuant to Penal Code 273(a) in California. You may face this charge for having a child in the passenger seat at the time you committed a DUI with injury offense. A PC 273(a) charge may attract a maximum prison sentence of six years if found guilty.
Felony Hit and Run
A “hit and run” crime qualifies as a felony it involves injury or death under Vehicle Code 2001. The prosecutor may include this charge on your case if you failed to stop and offer your identifying information after being involved in a grisly car accident. You can also face this charge for the failure to offer reasonable assistance to a victim who requires medical attention.
Vehicular Manslaughter While Under the Influence
Under Penal Code 191.5, it is a crime to cause the death of someone else when driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A PC 191.5 offense is more severe than a VC 23153 one based on the potential penalties and circumstances surrounding the offense. The prosecutor will allege that you acted negligently, broke another law, or drove under the influence causing the death of a third party.
Get Legal Help for a DUI Causing Injury Case Near Me
Your best shot at fighting a DUI with injury charge lies in your willingness to work with a skilled DUI defense lawyer. At Orange County DUI Defense Lawyer, we stand out from other law firms for our distinctive approach to defending clients with DUI charges. Drivers across Orange County, CA, have been reaching out to us over the years for expert legal help and representation on their DUI cases. Schedule your free case evaluation with our Orange County DUI Lawyer by calling 714-820-9592.
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