If you or a loved one have recently been charged with the crime of DUI with injury in the Los Angeles Area, you are facing serious consequences if convicted. And when charges like DUI with injury loom on the horizon, there is no time to waste in availing yourself of an experienced DUI lawyer.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have acquired deep expertise in defending against the charge of DUI with injury in the state of California. We have an intricate knowledge of the California Vehicle and Penal Codes and longtime first-hand experience with the local Los Angeles court system. We also have an undying commitment to fighting hard to secure the best possible outcome to every case we handle
What Constitutes "DUI with Injury?"
In California Vehicle Code Section 23153, DUI with injury is defined as causing bodily injury to another person as a result of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating drug. The charge can be either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the details of each case.
Driving under the influence (DUI) can be established either due to a BAC of .08% or higher or because, though your BAC level was lower, your driving was impaired by the presence of alcohol/drugs in your system.
The facts of the case, such as how badly the victim was injured and whether you were violating traffic laws (in addition to DUI laws) during the DUI, will affect the penalty applied. Whether or not you have past DUI convictions in the last 10 years of the present DUI will also affect the sentence.
When charged as a misdemeanor, DUI with injury is punishable by:
- Full restitution to all who were injured in the DUI incident.
- A license suspension of 1 to 3 years.
- Mandatory attendance at a state-approved DUI class for anywhere from 3 to 30 months.
- A fine of from $390 to $5,000.
- At least 5 days in county jail, but up to a full year.
- Summary probation for 3 to 5 years.
When charged as a felony, DUI with injury can be punished as follows:
- Full restitution to all victims.
- A 5-year loss of your California driver's license.
- 18 to 30 months at a DUI school.
- A fine of from $1,015 to $5,000.
- Registration as a Habitual Traffic Offender for 3 years.
- A Strike on your record under the California Three Strikes Law.
- 2 to 5 years in state prison; but another 3 to 6 years if a victim suffered "great bodily injury;" and an additional year for each additional person injured.
The above is only the punishments for a first-time conviction on VC 23153 (DUI with injury). A second offense (if within 10 years of the first or of another DUI or wet reckless conviction) will increase the penalties substantially. For example, even a misdemeanor DUI with injury will require a minimum of 120 days in county jail (instead of a five-day minimum).
And a third DUI with injury conviction within a 10-year period can easily get you a jail term of up to four years, a fine of up to $5,000, a license revocation of up to five years, and designation as a habitual traffic offender (HTO) for up to three years. Note that it is more difficult to get your license reinstated after a revocation versus a suspension and that HTO status increases the likelihood of going to jail for any future driving crimes. At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we know how to maximize your chance of a favorable outcome to your case even for repeat offense DUIs, but admittedly, the “odds” become tighter with each new offense.
Finally, note there is a sentencing enhancement for multiple victims being injured in a DUI incident. In felony level DUI with injury convictions, you will get an extra year in jail for each additional person who was injured in the DUI accident. You cannot, however, be charged with multiple counts of DUI with injury based on there having been multiple victims. If anyone died as a result of the DUI accident and it is proved your actions caused that death, then the charge would be raised to either vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated or “Watson Murder,” which is a form of second degree murder usually only charged for a repeat offense DUI that caused a fatality.
What Must the Prosecution Prove?
There are only three basic elements of the crime of DUI with injury, each of which the prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt to gain a conviction:
- The defendant was operating a motor vehicle while "under the influence."
- The defendant also violated a traffic law or otherwise acted negligently while operating the vehicle.
- It was the defendant's act of negligence or reckless indifference that led to the bodily injury of another person.
Note that element one is proven if the defendant's BAC was .08% or higher, .04% or higher for operators of commercial vehicles, or .01% or higher for those under the legal drinking age.
Additionally, if alcohol/drugs are determined to have impaired your driving, it is a DUI regardless of BAC. This means that the influence of the drug in your system affected you mentally and/or physically in such as way and to such a degree that, you did not drive the vehicle with the same care and caution as a sober person could reasonably be expected to do.
Finally, note that it is only bodily injuries, not psychological distress, that is at issue; and that, there must be a direct connection between the injury and the defendant's act of negligence. It is not enough simply that one committed a DUI and an injury occurred, nor even that one was negligent and an injury occurred, but that the negligence caused the injury.
Common Defense Strategies
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we employ numerous defense strategies to counter charges of DUI with injury. While each case is unique and thus has a somewhat different defense, here are the most common basic categories of defenses we utilize:
- You were not driving DUI. It may be that the PAS (breathalyzer) and/or blood test were thrown off by various factors, such as a still-rising BAC, the use of certain medications, or by certain medical conditions. It could also be that the testing equipment was not properly maintained or that it was improperly administered. Whatever the reason, we can challenge a potentially false BAC reading and/or have a independent BAC test done.
- There was no act of negligence. Aside, perhaps, from the DUI itself, there was no unlawful or negligent act on your part. Perhaps, the accident was caused by poor weather, equipment failure, or even the bad driving of the other party. Officers often assume that, if a DUI was committed, then any accident and/or injury involved is due to that DUI. But that is not always the case, and it is not assumed legally.
- The injury was not caused by the defendant. Even if there was a DUI and there was a negligent act, it must still be proven that that negligent act caused the injury. For example, one might have been speeding by, say, 5mph. But that, in itself, does not prove the accident/injury resulted from the speeding. Due to the difficulty of proving this kind of connection, many DUI with injury charges get reduced to regular DUI.
What About DUI Probation?
Whether or not you are granted probation after being convicted of DUI with injury will depend on the presiding judge, but a good defense attorney can often help you obtain it by negotiating a plea deal with the prosecutor.
If you are granted probation, you will still likely have to spend 120 days in county jail, though a good lawyer can sometimes plead this down to only 30 days in the right situation. In more extreme cases, you might even have to still spend a year in jail before being let out on probation.
You will be assigned a probation officer by the court, to whom you will be required to report throughout your probationary period. But if it is only a misdemeanor DUI, chances are you will not actually be monitored by a probation officer.
Terms of probation for a DUI with injury typically include such stipulations as:
- To refrain from operating a motor vehicle with any “measurable amount” of alcohol in your system.
- To submit to any and all BAC chemical tests requested by a police officer who stops you for any reason, even where those not on DUI probation would not have to submit to such tests.
- To avoid being charged with any other criminal violation during your probationary period. This does not include, however, minor traffic violations.
- To always have on your person a valid government-issued ID and to always give your real name and birth date to police when asked.
- To avoid owning or possessing a firearm or any other “deadly weapon” during your probation.
- To complete one or more state-approved DUI programs. This may include counseling, educational classes, interviews, and more. You may have to attend for 18 to 30 months. For excessively high BACs, the length of the DUI program(s) will be significantly increased.
You can expect probation to continue for from 3 to 5 years in all. Probation will certainly be an inconvenience and incur a great deal of expense. However, being incarcerated for years on end is a much worse situation. At least, with probation, you can be at home with your family, work, attend school, visit family and friends, and lead a relatively “normal” life. In jail, none of that is possible. At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we understand how, when, and why to negotiate for probation, and we have a long track record of success in this matter.
It frequently happens that certain other charges are leveled in addition to or in place of the charge of DUI with injury. Here are three of the most common such related offenses:
- Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (PC 191.5): This crime is even more serious than that of DUI with injury. It is generally pursued by prosecutors if another person was killed in an accident in which you were involved while DUI. It can also apply, however, if another person is deemed "likely to have died" due to your actions.
- Felony Hit-and-run Involving Injury/Death (PC 20001): This charge applies if you not only caused a bodily injury due to drunk driving but also fled the scene of the accident. It means that you did not stop to give your personal/contact information to the authorities and that you did not offer medical help to those needing it on the scene. This charge can actually apply even if you did not cause the accident, even though the charge of DUI with injury would suggest that you did.
- Child Endangerment (PC 273a): This additional charge applies if you were carrying a child with you as a passenger while you committed a DUI. It is a felony and can get you up to 6 years in state prison. Again, you need not have committed DUI with injury for Child Endangerment to have occurred, so defeating the main charge would not automatically defeat this one.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we take the time to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your arrest and to probe for weaknesses in the prosecution's case. We have often succeeded in getting DUI charges dropped or in winning an acquittal, but even in instances where that is not possible, we know how to negotiate a favorable plea to get charges and/or sentences reduced.
To learn more or for a free legal consultation, contact us anytime 24/7 at 424-281-3020.