Leah Legal is a well-reputed and highly rated criminal defense law firm serving clients in and around the Los Angeles area. Our firm is dedicated to defending individuals of all ages and walks of life charged with or under investigation for committing misdemeanor and felony crimes. The attorneys for the firm are well-versed in California criminal law and can handle all types of DUI cases, including DUI Causing Injury cases. There are several DUI defenses, some of which include the lack of probable cause for your arrest or innocence based on symptoms similar to being intoxicated. It is also possible to argue that the procedures set forth by the California Code of Regulations Title 17 were not followed for chemical tests by the administering officer.
Free Consultation 818-484-1100
What is a DUI Causing Injury Under California Law?
California takes driving under the influence (DUI) very seriously and has some of the most stringent laws against DUI offenders. Under the California law, if a driver has a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08 percent or above at the time of driving, the driver will be assumed as intoxicated in violation of the law. It does not matter if the driver "feels sober" or thinks he can "handle" it. Under California law, drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol have impaired their physical and mental abilities to operate a vehicle as they would ordinarily, or as a cautious sober person. The BAC limit is 0.1 percent or higher (under "zero tolerance" law) for minors who are under 21 years to be considered alcohol-impaired by law. Although the laws to address the problem of drunk driving are strict, drunk drivers still get behind the wheel holding their own as well as the life of those who share the road with them at risk.
If you are involved in an accident or collision driving under the influence, which results in causing injury to someone, the consequences and associated penalties can be particularly serious. You will have to face the legal repercussions for a DUI accident with injury, which are typically more serious than a regular DUI offense. You may even be charged with a DUI felony under certain circumstances.
Under Vehicle Code section 23153 of California law, "DUI Causing Injury" is defined as a crime where an individual driving under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug and concurrently committing an additional unlawful act, such as causing bodily harm or injury to some other person as a consequence of it. As per the California VC 23153(a), drivers can be charged even if their blood alcohol content is below the limit of 0.08 percent if they are involved in an auto accident causing injury to another individual. This charge breaks the common misconception that you cannot be charged with a DUI if your blood alcohol content is below the legal limit of 0.08. You may get charged with CVC 23153(a) depending on whether the prosecution believes they have a strong case against you or not.
On the contrary, if you have a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater while driving a car and caused an accident that injured a person other than you, you will get automatically charged under the California Vehicle Code section 23153(b) for a DUI with an injury.
However, it is important to note that California VC section 23152(b)—driving under the influence—considers driving a vehicle under the influence of any alcoholic beverage as unlawful. So, even if you did not cause any injury to person or property, you will be charged under this statute.
Is DUI Causing Injury a Misdemeanor or Felony?
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is mostly considered a misdemeanor DUI in California for first-time offenders. A misdemeanor is typically liable to be punished by some jail time, a fine, and probation. However, certain "aggravating factors" can escalate a simple, misdemeanor DUI and escalate the charges to felony DUI offense. One such aggravating circumstance in a DUI accident is causing injury or great bodily harm (or even death) to another person. Apart from DUI with an injury, other factors that can augment a simple charge to a felony include an elevated BAC (.16 percent), multiple prior convictions, a minor passenger in the vehicle, driving on a suspended license for a prior DUI, and others.
If you are a repeat offender of DUI Causing Injury, your DUI automatically qualifies to be considered a felony. The conviction for felony DUI holds stiffer penalties in addition to more lasting consequences as compared to a misdemeanor DUI charge. A felony DUI also requires a preliminary hearing, and you may have to go through several court proceedings, a minimum of one (1) year imprisonment (it can be more based on the circumstances), and many other collateral consequences of being convicted for a felony DUI.
If you are convicted for a DUI for the third time, but the two prior DUI convictions did not involve an injury or bodily harm to another person(s), your DUI will not be necessarily considered a felony. Your prior DUI convictions and the level of severity will play a significant role in deciding if your current case will make a felony or not.
If another driver hits into the driver charged with DUI while stopped at a stop traffic sign and endured injuries, under the California law, the intoxicated driver will not be charged for causing bodily harm. In such cases, the DUI charge will still be a misdemeanor, not a felony.
What a Prosecutor Must Prove for a DUI Causing Injury Conviction
To convict a driver of DUI Causing Injury under California VC 23153(a) or 23153(b), the prosecutor must prove the following three elements:
- the driver was found violating the DUI laws of California,
- while doing so, the driver broke another law in addition to DUI or showed negligent mannerism while driving, and
- the driver’s unlawful act or negligence caused injury to another person.
Whether you are driving under the influence or driving impaired of your natural physical and mental abilities, you can be considered of violating California's DUI laws. Also, if you are driving a vehicle with BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, or driving under the influence of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, you will be considered guilty of violating the DUI laws.
Under the California Vehicle Code 23153, the prosecution must also provide that your act or negligence is the reason for another person’s injury while you are driving under the influence.
For commercial vehicle drivers, the prosecution only needs to prove that the driver has a blood alcohol level of 0.04 percent or higher.
Penalties for DUI Causing Injury
The penalties or a plea bargain for DUI in California will depend on a variety of factors. The two main factors that help the court decide on the DUI penalties specific to your case include whether you have prior DUI conviction records, which meaning if you have been previously arrested for DUI and if a person has sustained serious injuries as a result of your driving under the influence.
DUI offenses in California are "priorable," and the penalty and/or punishment is going to increase each time you are convicted following your first DUI conviction, meaning for a second or a third DUI conviction, your penalty and/or punishment will necessarily increase. It is not unusual to expect fines and restitution of tens of thousands of dollars in addition to hefty prison terms for repeat offenders. Conducts such as hit-and-run may also be taken under consideration while deciding on penalties for a DUI conviction.
If you are a first-time DUI offender, under the California VC 23153 law, the DUI Causing Injury (aka California "wobbler" offense) will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The potential misdemeanor DUI Causing Injury penalties under California VC 23153 may include:
- Three (3) to five (5) years of informal probation,
- Five (5) days to one (1) year imprisonment in the county jail,
- Fines between $390 and $5,000,
- A mandatory, court-imposed alcohol education program for three (3), nine (9), eighteen (18), or thirty (30) months
- A one (1) to three (3) years of driver’s license suspension
- Restitution to all injured parties
It is important to note that from now (starting in 2019), you may be able to continue drive without limitation if you install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car for six (6) months.
If the accident has caused a serious physical injury or death of a third party, according to the Vehicle Code 23153, it can be charged as felony DUI with an injury. A third party could be a pedestrian, a cyclist, a driver or passenger in another car, or even a passenger in your own vehicle. If you already have a past felony DUI conviction and/or multiple prior DUI convictions for driving under the influence under Vehicle Code 23153, it is most likely to be prosecuted as a felony. The penalties you will be subjected for DUI Causing Injury charge may include:
- Sixteen (16) months to ten (10) years in the California state prison
- An additional and consecutive jail sentence of one (1) to six (6) years for injured survivors, based on the number of persons injured as well as the extent of their bodily injuries
- Possibility to an additional “strike” on the defendant’s driving/criminal record (California’s Three Strikes Law), if the victim suffers significant bodily injury
- Fines ranging between $1,015 and $5,000
- A mandatory, court-imposed alcohol/drug program (DUI school) for a period of eighteen (18) to thirty (30) months
- Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) status for three (3) years
- Revocation of driving privileges for five (5) years
- Restitution to all involved injured parties
Please note that starting in 2019, you may be able to continue drive without limitation if you get an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your car for one (1) year or longer.
Defenses for a California DUI Causing Injury
If you have been arrested for DUI with injury, you should immediately get in touch with a criminal defense attorney. Your DUI lawyer can advise you on your rights and put up a solid defense to represent you in the court. There are various possible defenses for DUI with injury convictions, and an experienced and skilled DUI lawyer can explore all possibilities to argue in your defense.
Similar to a DUI charge, defenses against DUI with injury convictions are based on your DUI defense attorney arguing that you were not under the influence while the prosecution tries to prove the reverse. Your attorney will also make sure if all tests were accurate and may want to challenge the accuracy of the test results if your BAC is more than 0.08 percent. Generally, DUI breath tests are subject to a lot of errors, which may include instrument malfunction, improper device handling by the officer, your physiological conditions, outside environmental conditions, like radio frequency interference, which could play a role in generating erroneously high BAC reading and often makes the basis of a successful DUI defense strategy.
In your defense, your attorney will make sure that all the DUI investigation was appropriately done and that the administration and interpretation of the field sobriety tests were done correctly. Generally, there’s a video which the officer would make to treat the sobriety tests as evidence, so your attorney would want to gather them and check if they match to what was mentioned in the DUI report.
A good attorney may also put a defense that your negligence or unlawful action was not the immediate cause of the other person’s injury. Your defense attorney may also take on a new approach while investigating the accident and injury caused by working with an accident reconstruction expert, who can study and analyze the different aspects to "reconstruct" the scene. An accident scene reconstruction expert will take into account factors, such as road conditions, the weather, damage caused to the vehicles involved in the accident, or any other relevant evidence that may help the lawyer partnering him.
There are many other DUI defenses that can help an experienced criminal defense attorney can rely on to beat DUI charges under California law. A few examples include:
- Breath test instrument may have captured "mouth alcohol" rather than a sample of breath from your deep lung tissue
- Possibility of medical conditions like GERD, acid reflux, hiatal hernia, or heartburn, which can create possible mouth alcohol conditions
- DUI defense of rising blood alcohol, whether you had a DUI breath or blood test
- Potential for erroneous DUI blood tests results, based on storage and collection of your DUI blood test
- Any violation of California’s Title 17 regulations
- Lack of probable cause—reasonable suspicion or reasonable belief of DUI—for a DUI stop
- Arresting officer did not read Miranda Rights before conducting a custodial interrogation after the arrest
Also, sometimes the ability of your attorney to negotiate with the prosecution can get you a plea bargain, which can help reduce the legal punishment for which you are convicted.
DUI Causing Injury and Related Offenses
Some other related offenses where the prosecution may charge you with a felony DUI would include Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated under Penal Code section 191.5(a) or Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated under Penal Code section 191.5(b) of the California law if all the victims of the accident died as a result of it. Both 191.5 (a) and (b) subdivisions are more serious crimes than a DUI Causing Injury conviction and may result in stiffer penalties and punishments.
If you have a prior DUI conviction and committed a fatal accident that killed someone while driving under the influence, the prosecution may charge you a California Penal Code 187, second-degree murder—also popularly known as "Watson Murder." You may also be charged with California Vehicle Code 20001 Felony Hit and Run involving injury, if you are involved in an accident but fail to stop and provide your information, and administer any required assistance to a person who sustained serious injuries and required immediate medical attention. If you had a child as a passenger in your vehicle while driving under the influence and causing a DUI with injury, you could be charged with Child Endangerment law under Penal Code 273a. PC by the prosecution, which can land you up in the state prison for up to six (6) years.
Find a Van Nuys DUI Attorney
If you or a loved one has recently been charged with DUI Causing Injury in Los Angeles and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, you should seek advice from an experienced and reputable criminal defense law firm like Leah Legal. We are a team of skilled and experienced attorneys who specialize in providing the best possible defense for the DUI Causing Injury charges under the California criminal law. With in-depth knowledge and a result-oriented approach, our attorneys can navigate through the intricacies of the legislative process and successfully argue in your defense. We work closely with our clients to give them personalized attention. To learn more about how we can help you with your DUI criminal charge, contact us 24/7 at 818-484-1100 and speak to one of our legal experts regarding your DUI Causing Injury case.