DUI Causing Injury cases are a two in one charge. First, it is assumed that you violated the California DUI laws. Further, your impaired driving resulted in the injury of another. California has the most elaborate DUI laws in the country. The penalties that DUI charges such as DUI Causing Injury carry are severe and life-altering. Having legal representation when faced with these charges is your best bet at avoiding or reducing the effects of a DUI Causing Injury conviction.
We at the Orange County DUI Defense Attorney Law Firm have the experience needed to address DUI challenges. Our commitment to helping clients have the convictions reduced or dropped altogether remains at the heart of our operations and our promise to you.
Overview of DUI Laws and Penalties for their Violation
Vehicle Code 23152(b) makes it illegal to drive a vehicle under the influence of any alcohol or drugs. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be convicted of a first, second, or third DUI offense, all of which are misdemeanor offenses in Orange County.
First DUI Offense
Violating Code 23152 VC for the first time becomes your first DUI misdemeanor offense. The courts will impose a fine of no more than $2,000, summary probation, as well as the attendance and completion of a three-month Alcohol program. The judge will also direct that you attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) one-day course. The offense further strips you of driving privileges for six months. However, installing an IID in your car allows you to continue driving through the six-month driver's license suspension.
Second Time DUI Offense
A conviction for a second DUI offense increases your penalties for the crime. You will be required to serve summary probation for a period within three to five years. The crime also requires you to part with almost $2,000 in fines. A second DUI charge is considered an escalation. Thus you may be required to serve a jail sentence. Prison terms of between ninety-six hours to one year are typical for a second time DUI offender. However, for most, they end up serving forty-five to ninety days in jail.
Judges will require you to attend an Alcohol/Drug program to be completed within 18 to 30 months. This requisite is over and above the attendance of AA (Alcohol Anonymous) classes or spending time in community services as directed by the courts. Be prepared also to have your license suspended. On the other hand, you have the option of retaining your driving privileges if you install an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) for at least one year.
Third Time DUI Offense
Third time DUI offenders are punished through fines that total to $2,800. You are also looking at summary probation for three to five years. In some cases, the judge may require you to serve some time in jail. The period ranges from ninety-six hours to one year. Most offenders spend forty-five to ninety days in prison for the offense.
As part of your reform package, you will be expected to complete an eighteen to thirty months’ long alcohol/drug program. The judge will also introduce time doing community work as well as attending AA classes as part of the penalties you need to serve.
The above DUI matters only address cases of driving under the influence. In other DUI incidents, impaired driving can result in an accident that causes injuries or fatalities. Such circumstances are referred to as aggravating circumstances and are worth addressing.
DUI Causing Injury Under California Law
California’s Code 23153 breaks down DUI Causing Injury DUI (Driving Under the Influence), as an offense that results in bodily harm of another. Drivers who operate their vehicles with an alcohol level of BAC of 0.08 percent violate the California DUI laws. Any injury to another further complicates the matter, and you may be held responsible for the resulting injury.
Prosecutors need to prove three aspects in a DUI Causing Injury matter. They will have to demonstrate that:
- You were under the influence of alcohol or drugs while operating the vehicle. Reports from the officers that include your breath and blood alcohol tests suffice as evidence that will attest to your impaired state while driving.
- Your actions were negligent and resulted in another’s injury. The prosecution will need to show a link between your impaired driving and the accident that injured another. Your actions need to show negligence. Alternatively, the prosecution needs to prove that you broke the law while driving under the influence.
- Your actions resulted in the injury of another. The harm should be a direct consequence of your actions for the prosecution to prove the case against you.
Vehicle Code 23153 further provides punishment for any violations of this law. The penalties are pegged on the facts of your case as well as your criminal history. The circumstances in your case show the extent of your negligence and the severity of the injury to the victim. Your criminal history, on the other hand, will show any DUI priors you may have been convicted of in the last ten years. Combine the circumstances in your case with any past convictions, and you are looking at harsher sentences for the violation.
While the prosecutor may choose to prosecute other DUI cases as either felonies or misdemeanors, many DUI Causing Injury cases end up as felony offenses. This is so because the injury inflicted on another, and the negligent actions are aggravating factors in the DUI case. However, it is possible to negotiate with the prosecution to have the charges reduced to misdemeanors.
Misdemeanor charges are punishable with a prison sentence that ranges from five days to a year. However, you can avoid time in jail by serving summary probation within three to five years. Further, you may be required to pay fines that range from $390 to $5,000, while paying restitution fees to the victim or their family. You will also be required to attend an alcohol or drug sensitization program (California DUI School). The sessions may go for three, nine, eighteen, or thirty months, depending on the court’s direction. The crime will deny driving privileges for a year or three. In spite of this, you can be allowed to drive if you have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed in your car for six months.
Penalties for felony violations under Vehicle Code 23153 are harsher. Prison sentences range from two, three, or four years. There would be an additional three to six years if the victim suffered great bodily harm. If the case involved several victims, you might face an extra year to your prison sentence (with a maximum of three years) for each victim in the DUI matter. You will also be required to pay an amount from $1,015 to $5,000 in fines. The judge will further impose the attendance of a court-mandated DUI program that may run for eighteen or thirty months.
It should be noted that felony charges have a bearing on your criminal history in that you may receive a strike pursuant to the three strike’s law in California should there be an injury to another. The judge may also direct that you get a three-year HTO (Habitual Traffic Offender) status. The culmination of these penalties is the five-year revocation of your driving privileges though you can continue driving without any restrictions only if you install an IID in your car for any period from one year.
Fighting a DUI Causing Injury Charge
The defense strategy in this matter is simple. Beat the DUI charges and explore all possibilities that could have led to the victim’s injury. As with any DUI case, your attorney may use the following defense approaches.
Proving that you were not Under the Influence
Sobriety tests may be the preferred alternative by the law enforcement agencies, but they are not 100 percent accurate. Their accuracy is affected by the nature of the devices used, their administration, among other aspects. As such, you have unreliable results that are the basis of your charges. Your attorney should be in a position to find any issues that raise questions on the results.
Proving Procedure Violations by the Police
It is expected of the police officers to follow specific procedures when it comes to administering sobriety tests. They are obliged to make public of any DUI checkpoints they intend to set up. Further, they should have probable cause before subjecting any driver to sobriety tests.
Title 17 Violations
Title 17 sets forth the procedures to be followed while collecting, storing, and analyzing the tests carried out. With regards to DUI blood samples, the technicians are required to:
- Sterilize all blood drawing devices on-site before any blood is drawn. Alcohol-based cleaning agents are recommended for the sterilization.
- Have sufficient anticoagulants and blood preservatives to prevent false readings of Blood Alcohol Concentration levels. The anticoagulants and the preservatives help avoid blood fermenting or clotting.
- Have the blood sample correctly stored.
When it comes to breath tests, the procedures that test administrators need to comply with include:
- That the test should be from a lung air (alveolar air) sample.
- That the individual offering the test should not smoke, drink, eat, regurgitate, or vomit during the test. If any of the above should occur, the test sample will be contaminated.
- That the breath-testing device is calibrated after every 150 uses or after every ten days, whichever comes first.
Failure to follow the above guidelines by the test administrators is grounds to have the test results contested and good defense in your case.
Failure by the Arresting Officer to read you Your Miranda Rights
No matter the circumstances surrounding your arrest, a police officer should read to you your Miranda rights. Should the officer fail to do so, you have grounds to question the arrest and the charges the DUI Causing Injury charges brought forth against you.
Medical Conditions that Caused a Surge in the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
Certain medical conditions cause a false reading in the BAC. Acid reflux, hiatal hernia, or heartburns. Diabetes and low-carb diets account for the mouth-alcohol in other instances. Such variables are often not considered when the tests are administered. Thus, the results cannot be relied upon as accurate.
It was a Case of Bad Driving and Not a DUI
Most police officers, based on a biased, assume that cases of bad driving are DUIs. Speeding over the limit, weaving, or veering off the road are some of the actions that could get you pulled over and do not necessarily mean you were driving under the influence. Such actions may be the result of an intentional reaction, or distraction, cases that are common. It is a reality that occasional distraction of drivers can happen and should not be assumed that you were under the influence. Such a distinction is vital as a defense strategy.
Challenging the Accuracy of the Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests (FSTS) are not accurate. The tests are 65 to 70 percent accurate at detecting impairment. Officers use the field sobriety tests before testing for your BAC, and in some instances, the FSTs are the only tests the officers conduct. However, what the tests do not account for are additional factors that compromise that affect the tests’ accuracy, including intimidation, poor lighting, and uneven surfaces, among others. Your attorney should be in a position to argue this in your defense.
Injury in DUI cases is an aggravating matter, as indicated above. Therefore, your attorney will use a different approach when it comes to formulating a defense strategy. Your attorney, with the help of a reconstruction expert, will examine the accident to find where the actual fault lies. Their assessment determines if your attorney will use the following defense.
The Injury was a Result of Other Factors
In finding fault, the investigators may be focused on blaming you for the accident and overlook some crucial aspects. Investigations may not factor in how the road conditions, weather, and the condition of the cars contributed to the crash. All these are issues that should be examined. If not, they are a basis for questioning the DUI Causing Injury charges brought against you.
The Victim’s Contribution to the Accident
It is not always apparent that one party is to blame when accidents occur. Investigations do reveal that the victim also played a role in the events leading to the crash. This is what your attorney will seek to determine in your case through an independent investigation. If the findings support their negligence as a contributor to the accident, your attorney will submit these findings in your defense.
Charges Related to DUI Causing Injury Offense
Various situations inform the decision by the prosecution to prefer charges. It may be the prosecution’s decision to charge you with DUI Causing Injury offense. In other circumstances, they may introduce additional charges in addition to violating Vehicle Code 23153. Such charges include:
Vehicular Manslaughter, Penal Code 191.5
Prosecutors may introduce vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. These charges are more severe than the DUI Causing Injury allegations because the accident resulted in a fatality. It is upon the prosecution to prove the following:
- You were negligent in your actions and that your reckless driving led to an accident that claimed another's It should also be clear that your actions violated traffic laws.
- In your impaired state, you engaged in activities that put the lives of other motorists in danger. If the prosecution can show a link between your actions in the impaired state and the death of another, your charges could shift to Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated.
Vehicular manslaughter charges while intoxicated carry misdemeanor penalties of no more than a year in jail and felony penalties of sixteen, two, or four years spent in prison. Gross Vehicular Manslaughter is punishable with a four, six, or ten-year prison sentence. Additionally, your license will be suspended in both vehicular and gross vehicular manslaughter cases.
Child Endangerment, Penal Code 273a
Risking the life of a child according to Penal Code 273a is child endangerment. If a minor was in your care at the time of the accident, you could be charged with endangering their lives. The charges will hold even if no harm befell the child. Circumstances that did not result in any form of injury to the child attract a misdemeanor charge. The charges attract a fine of up to $1,000 with a jail sentence of no more than a year. If the accident resulted in the death of the minor, or great bodily harm befell the child, you are looking at a felony charge. You will be sentenced to two, four, or six years in prison. You will also be required to pay a fine of no more than $10,000.
Felony Hit and Run that Causes Death or Injury, Vehicle Code 20001
You violate Code 20001 VC if you fail to stop or provide reasonable assistance to the victims in an accident you caused. The victims, in this case, could be either injured or dead. Prosecutors may choose to bring up misdemeanor charges or felony charges, all dependent on the severity of the injury. Less severe injuries attract misdemeanor charges while severe injuries, including fatalities, are prosecuted as felonies.
Misdemeanor charges are punishable with a prison term of up to one year. You could also be required to part with an amount ranging between $1,000 and $10,000 in fines. However, if felony charges are brought against you, you are looking at sixteen months to three years in prison. You will also have a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000 added as a penalty for the offense. If the accident resulted in a fatality, your prison terms would change to two, or four years.
DUI Causing Injury as a Criminal and Civil Matter
Injuries or fatalities related to a DUI matter can be tried in criminal proceedings and as civil cases. Criminal proceedings, as seen above, are the government’s initiative through prosecutors to hold DUI offenders accountable for their actions. The offenders serve as an example to discourage drunk driving. If convicted of a DUI Causing Injury, the judge may require you to pay a certain amount, restitution fees to the victims. The sums cater for the medical expenses they have incurred to treat their post-accident injuries. In fatality instances, the restitution fees cater for lost wages, as well as the funeral expenses.
Criminal proceedings do not take away the rights of victims to pursue damages in civil matters. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise when you face a personal injury case in civil court. Your attorney should help negotiate suitable terms to avoid the court process. However, in the event the negotiations fail, you may be required to pay any of the following damages.
These damages are awarded to plaintiffs should the judge rule in their favor in the personal injury case against you. The sums awarded cater to their post-accident situation. The amounts should provide for their medical expenses for accident-related injuries, their suffering, lost wages, as well as funeral expenses for their loved ones. Compensatory damages are awarded in two faces:
- Special or economic damages, which are the sums stated are specified in both value and the aspect they are meant to cater to such as medical bills.
- General damages or non-economic damages address the intangible financial aspects that deserve compensation. Issues such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish are paid for in the damages awarded.
Punitive damages are meant to punish an offender for willful neglect in the actions that caused the accident. Punitive damages are awarded at the discretion of the courts. The court’s assessment of your actions in the personal injury matter determines the value of punitive damages.
Find a Orange County DUI Attorney Near Me
DUI Causing Injury carry life-altering consequences that go as far as affecting your employability, financial access as well as your insurance premiums. You should try your best to avoid these consequences. Securing legal representation is the first step in potentially avoiding such outcomes. If you or your loved one is facing a DUI Causing Injury case, give us a call at 714-740-7866. We provide consultation and case assessment services for all types of DUI cases.