You will face harsher penalties under California law if you cause an accident due to drunk driving, and the accident results in the injury of another person. The California VC 23153 may charge this crime as a misdemeanor or a felony. According to VC 23153(a), it is unlawful for a person to drive while under the influence of alcohol or any drug and engage in an illegal act or negligence, causing bodily injury to another person. California VC 23153(b) makes it an offense for a person with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more to drive and concurrently engage in an unlawful act or neglect a duty, consequently causing injury to another person. If another person other than you (the driver) sustains injuries due to your drunk driving, you will face harsh penalties. If you face charges for causing a DUI accident and inflicting injuries on others in Bakersfield, CA, the Koenig Law Office can help you fight the charges.
A DUI Accident
For the prosecutor to charge you of causing a DUI accident, they must prove that when you caused the accident, you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Being under the influence could mean:
- Driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more as outlined by VC 23152(b)
- Driving under the influence as outlined by VC 23152(a)
- Driving under the influence of drugs VC 23152(f)
To charge you with a DUI offense causing injuries to others, the prosecutor must prove several elements of the crime:
- The prosecutor should prove that you violated the California DUI laws
- It should be evident that you engaged in another unlawful act while driving
- Your negligence or wrongful act led to the injury of another person. You can violate the DUI laws in California if you drive when your physical and mental abilities have been impaired by alcohol
- Your blood alcohol content exceeded the allowable limit of 0.08% at the time of driving
- At the time you drove, you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol or a combination of both
The situation would be different if you were driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the accident. In this case, the prosecutor will only need to prove that your BAC was at 0.04% or above.
What It Means To Be Under the Influence
For DUI with injury law, being under the influence means that your mental or physical abilities are impaired. For you to face charges, the impairment should be in such a manner that you cannot drive with caution the way a sober person would.
In the case of driving under the influence of drugs, there is no standard measurement of intoxication. You will face charges as long as you have a detectable amount of drugs in your system. According to California VC 23152(f), you could face charges for being under the influence of drugs even if the drug involved is a prescription drug, illegal, or over-the-counter medication.
According to California law, you are under the influence if your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is at 0.08% or above. This is known as per se DUI. Provided your BAC is above the allowable limit, the law presumes that you are under the influence even if you do not feel impaired. BAC is the amount of alcohol that is present in your bloodstream.
Acting in a Negligent Manner or Breaking the Law
Under the California Vehicle Code 23153 provides that in addition to driving under the influence, the driver should have violated the law or acted negligently. The prosecutor should prove that your act or negligence while driving under the influence caused the injury of another party. For instance, you could face charges if you get involved in a DUI accident while speeding or violating traffic laws.
The Consequences of DUI Accident Injury with Others
The consequences of causing a DUI accident and causing injuries on other people will vary depending on the facts of your specific case. The consequences will also vary depending on whether you are a first-time or a repeat offender. The look-back period for DUI offenses is ten years. You are likely to face harsher penalties if you had committed another DUI offense in the past ten years. Unlike a non-injury DUI, a third-time DUI with injury is an automatic felony offense. Below are some of the consequences of causing a DUI accident and leading to the injury of others. The crime could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, the consequences are:
- A summary or informal probation that ranges between three and five years
- The defendant could face a jail time that does not exceed one year
- Hefty fines ranging between $390 and $5,000
- A court-approved alcohol or drug education program. The program may range between 18 months and 30 months. This program is also known as the California DUI school
- A suspension of your driver's license for a period ranging between one and three years. If you agree to install an ignition interlock device, you can continue driving even after a conviction
- The court may order to pay restitution to all the injured parties
If the prosecutor charges the DUI offense as a felony, the applicable penalties include:
- Imprisonment in a state prison in California for two, three, or four years
- Additional and consecutive imprisonment for six years if an accident victim sustains severe injuries
- For every additional person that sustains an injury, you might face an additional and consecutive one-year sentence for a maximum of three years.
- According to the Three Strikes Law in California, you could get a strike on your criminal record if another person other than you sustains injuries in the accident or suffers significant bodily injury.
- Fines ranging between $1000 and $5000
- A court-approved DUI school ranging between 18 months and 30 months
- You might be labeled an HTO (Habitual Traffic Offender) for three years
- Revocation of your driver’s license for five years; however, you can continue driving if you install an ignition interlock device
A felony conviction means that you will acquire the status of a felon. Being labeled a felon could affect your rights, including your ability to look for housing, apply for a job, and other aspects of your life.
When a DUI Accident Injury With Others is an Automatic Felony
There are several instances when a DUI causing injuries to others is an automatic felony. You will face felony charges if:
- You commit a third DUI offense involving injuries to others. In this case, the prosecutor will charge the offense as an automatic felony.
- When you commit a fourth DUI attorney within ten years — you will face felony charges even if the previous DUI offenses did not involve injuries to others.
- A third-time DUI offense whereby the previous offenses did not involve injuries to others will be a wobbler. The prosecutor will consider your criminal history and the facts of the current offense to determine whether to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or felony.
- If the victims suffer severe injuries due to drunk driving, the prosecutor will charge the crime as a felony. You could face felony charges even if it is your first DUI offense as long as you cause other people extreme injuries. What constitutes severe injuries according to the law? Serious injuries could include broken bones, disabilities, internal damages, and other severe conditions like loss of limb or brain injuries.
Down Grading a Felony Offense under VC 23153 to a Misdemeanor Offense
Can you downgrade a felony crime of DUI causing injuries to others into a misdemeanor offense? In some instances, the prosecutor must charge the DUI crime as a felony because of your criminal history and other factors. In some other cases, the prosecutor may charge you with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of your case. If the prosecutor has the discretion to charge the offense as either a misdemeanor or felony, there is room for negotiation. With the help of your criminal defense attorney, you can persuade the prosecutor to charge the crime as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Determining the Restitution Amount
One of the consequences of DUI causing injuries to others is paying restitution to the accident victims. Restitution is the money that the defendant pays to the victim to compensate them for the cost of the injuries suffered in the accident. The victims are likely to incur thousands of dollars in seeking treatment for injuries sustained in an accident. While your insurance may pay for some of these charges, you will have to pay the balance out-of-pocket. Your attorney can help you negotiate the restitution amount since many accident victims inflate the expenses or include expenses unrelated to the accident. Your attorney will review the costs and ensure that you do not pay more than you need to.
Typical Defenses to Fight the DUI Charges under VC 23153
What are some of the defenses that you can adopt to fight DUI charges under VC 23153? Fighting charges under VC 23153 starts with the same approach as fighting any other drunk driving charge. You need to hire a reliable and aggressive criminal defense attorney. An attorney will explore all the possible ways of proving that your BAC limit was inaccurately reported and that you were not under the influence. An attorney will ensure that you do not fall victim to improper arrest and investigations. An attorney will consider all the aspects of your case, identify weak points, and use them to fight your charges. However, your attorney must adopt another approach or strategy when focusing on the DUI accident and the resulting injuries. Your criminal defense attorney may involve an accident reconstruction expert to determine what happened during the accident. An accident reconstruction expert will help determine whether the accident that caused the injuries was truly your fault. While examining the scene of the DUI accident, the expert will consider the following factors:
- Road conditions
- Damages on your vehicle
- Any other relevant evidence
When the police arrive at an accident scene and realize that the driver is not sober, they are quick to conclude that the accident occurred due to intoxication. The police assume that the driver is to blame for the accident. They proceed to write a report based on this assumption. In addition to proving that you were under the influence, the prosecutor must prove that your actions or negligence caused the other person's injuries to charge under VC 23153. This explains why most VC 23153 charges end up being reduced to VC 23152 charges. Below are some of the effective defenses that you can fight VC 23153 charges:
You were not Intoxicated
When an accident occurs, and the police suspect that you are under the influence, they will look for signs of intoxication. Some of the common physical signs of intoxication include:
- A flushed face, red or watery eyes
- An unsteady gait
- A strong smell of alcohol
Your physical appearance will play a significant role in your DUI investigation. With the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney, you can state that these signs were not due to intoxication but due to cold, allergies, irritation, and fatigue. You can state that what the police perceived as a smell of alcohol was a smell of other substances commonly found in non – alcoholic substances like mouthwash.
False Mouth Alcohol
The only sure way of establishing that you are under the influence is by determining your BAC readings. If the police establish that your BAC was above 0.08% at the time of the accident, they will assume that the accident occurred due to intoxication. The law requires the testing officer to observe you continuously for fifteen minutes before administering the test. The law also requires the police to ensure that the suspect does not belch, regurgitate, or burp before the testing to avoid residual mouth alcohol. The testing officer should test deep lung air to ensure the accuracy of test results; if the testing officer does not follow all the guidelines while testing, you might register a false BAC. You can fight the charges by pointing out that the officer did not conduct the recommended 15 – minute observation. Showing that the police did not follow the proper guidelines prompts for another DUI investigation.
The Accident Did not Occur Due to Intoxication
Accidents occur for many reasons and not just because the driver was intoxicated. Sober people cause most of the accidents that occur in California. Your attorney can help you to prove that the DUI accident did not occur due to drunk driving. The accident could have occurred due to other factors like:
- Poor visibility
- Poor road conditions
- Other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers
- Poor road signage
If the accident occurred due to poor road signage or poorly maintained roads, the entity responsible for maintaining the roads could be to blame for the accident. The entities could also be to blame if the accident occurs due to poor road signage.
If you manage to convince the court that the accident did not occur due to your negligence, you might face lower charges. You will not be responsible for the injuries sustained by the accident victims. Instead, you will only face DUI charges.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney
Attorneys win cases all the time; there is the hope of winning your DUI-causing injury case. No DUI case is unwinnable as long as you have a skilled attorney to help you fight the charges. When you contact a criminal defense attorney, he or she will:
- Investigate your case, and identify all the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s evidence against you
- Investigate and determine whether the police conducted the arrest according to the law. The attorney will also determine whether the police violated any of your constitutional rights during the arrest.
- Review the breath and the blood tests or urine tests if applicable to ensure that the testing office conducted the test correctly. The attorney may check the Breathalyzer equipment to ensure that it is well-calibrated. An attorney will also ensure that the blood samples were handled properly to avoid contamination. By reviewing the testing procedures, your attorney will determine whether the test results are reliable.
- The attorney may also consider the victims' injuries to determine whether a felony charge is warranted.
- Your attorney may seek the assistance of an accident reconstruction expert to determine who was at fault in the accident.
The prosecutor faces a heavy burden of proof when charging a suspect with a DUI offense, causing injuries to others. It is not enough for the prosecutor to prove that you were under the influence and that another person suffered injuries. The prosecutor must also prove that you broke another law like running the red light or acting carelessly, leading to the accident. If the prosecutor cannot prove all these factors, he or she will have a weak case against you. If your attorney realizes that the police used unconstitutional means to gather evidence against you, he or she may file a motion to suppress evidence. This motion urges the judge to exclude all the evidence that was acquired illegally. The prosecutor may have no option but to offer you a plea bargain, charging you with a lower offense.
Find a Bakersfield DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you cause an accident while under the influence and other people suffer injuries, the consequences could be severe. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. Koenig Law Office has experienced criminal defense attorneys who provide reliable legal services in Bakersfield, CA. Contact us at 661-793-7222 to know more about how we can help you.