Any drunk- or drugged driving offense is a serious issue. But when you’re accused of DUI with injury, you’re facing aggravated charges that come with an enhanced sentence if found guilty. If you’ve been arrested and facing these charges in California, you can’t afford to defend yourself without expert legal representation. The stakes are too high for you to fight alone.
At the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we have in-depth knowledge of California DUI laws and experience fighting all kinds of DUI accusations, including those of DUI with an injury. Our expertise in this practice area is extensive, and we have a long history of achieving the best possible outcome for our clients in Los Angeles and the surrounding neighborhoods. We know how to develop a solid defense strategy for a DUI causing injury charge both at the DMV hearing and, if it comes to it, jury trial. Call us today for a free consultation so we can have ample time to build a winning defense for your case.
What Is a DUI Causing Injury Offense?
Vehicle Code (VC) 23153 describes the offense of DUI with injury as operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and your driving causes someone else to suffer bodily injury. The District Attorney (DA) can charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor under this section.
Elements of the Crime
Elements of the crime, in this case, refers to the factors the prosecution must prove for the judge to rule that you are guilty of DUI inflicting injury. This criminal misconduct has three elements that the DA has to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt. They are:
- You were breaking California DUI
- While doing that, you violated another law, or your actions were otherwise negligent while driving.
- Your negligence or an unlawful act caused someone else to suffer injuries.
Let us look at these elements in detail:
You break DUI statutes by:
- Driving while intoxicated with alcohol (i.e., driving when your physical or mental abilities are alcohol-impaired,
- Operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08% for non-commercial drivers or BAC .04% for commercial drivers, or
- Driving while intoxicated with drugs,
- Driving while intoxicated with both alcohol and drugs
For the purpose of DUI causing injury law, being under the influence implies that your mental or physical abilities are weakened or impaired to the extent that you cannot drive with caution like a sober motorist would under similar or the same circumstances. As concerns driving while intoxicated with drugs, the drugs could be illegal, over-the-counter, or prescription.
Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or higher for commercial drivers and .04% for non-commercial motorists is called per se DUI law. Per se means in itself. This name is given because the California DUI statute presumes that when your BAC level is .08%/.04% or more during your breath or blood test, you’re automatically guilty of drunk-driving. Hence, you could be convicted for violating VC 23153 if you inflicted an injury on someone else, notwithstanding whether you indeed were intoxicated or not. BAC refers to the alcohol amount that’s detectable in your blood.
You Violated Another Law, or Your Actions Were Otherwise Negligent
DUI statute under VC 23153 dictates that you need to have acted negligently or violated a different law apart from driving while intoxicated. This means it should be your negligence or violation that leads to the other party suffering injury. Consider this example to have a better understanding:
Alex is tipsy and is driving home after attending a party. While driving, Jayden rear-ends her and cuts his head and arm on the windscreen during the crash. In this situation, the DA can charge Alex with DUI with an injury. However, Alex’s DUI defense lawyer may argue that a VC 23152(a) charge would be more appropriate because Alex did not cause the crash and injuries. But if Alex was speeding when tipsy and she rear-ended Jayden, the DA is likely to maintain that DUI causing injury charges is appropriate because:
- She was speeding while driving while intoxicated, and
- Her speed made her rear-end Jayden, causing him to injure her head and arm.
Legal Defenses to a Violation of VC 23153
Fighting a VC 23153 violation in court takes the same approach as fighting any DUI charge. An experienced DUI defense lawyer will explore all the possibilities of showing that you were not intoxicated, and your unlawful BAC level was incorrectly reported. They will also ensure all arrest, investigation, and breath- or blood-testing procedures were appropriately followed- and use the mistakes they find to defend against your charges.
The lawyer will take on other approaches when focusing on the crash and subsequent injuries. They will work together with a crash reconstruction expert who will independently evaluate the accident scene to determine whether the collision that resulted in injuries was indeed your fault.
The crash reconstruction expert recreates the supposed DUI causing injury accident scene, considering factors like road conditions, the weather, damage caused to the autos, and any other relevant proof that they acquire.
Note that when a law enforcement officer arrives at an accident scene and finds out that a person had been drinking, he/she automatically presumes that that individual is at fault. He/she then compiles his/her report dependent on that assumption.
But after reviewing all the facts, your lawyer can argue defenses such as:
You Were Not Driving When the Officer Arrested You
In case you were in your car and intoxicated, but the DA didn’t prove that you were driving the auto, then you can’t be guilty of violating VC 23153. It could be that you were just seated on the driver’s seat dozing off the alcohol first before driving home, then the victim hit your car, causing them to suffer injuries. In this case, it isn’t your fault at all since you had parked your vehicle.
You Didn’t Cause the Bodily Harm.
If indeed you were intoxicated, but the intoxication wasn’t directly the cause of the victim’s bodily injury, you may not be convicted of this crime. For instance, if it was rainy or foggy and you were involved in a crash, and your lawyer can prove that these weather conditions contributed to the collision (not because of your negligence), you might not be convicted of DUI causing injury. However, you may be convicted of DUI under VC 23152(a) or VC 23152(b) based on your BAC level.
The Chemical Test Results Were Inaccurate
Your lawyer could argue that the results of the chemical testing you underwent weren’t accurate because of poor maintenance or calibration of the testing equipment or improper techniques applied by the test administrator. He/she could also argue that the blood or breath sample wasn’t properly collected, handled, or stored. In the case of a blood test, your lawyer may manage to have the court allow independent testing that may prove the BAC level was lower than the results are showing.
Violation of Your Legal Rights
Your lawyer may also successfully argue that your initial encounter with law enforcement officers violated your legal rights against illegal search and seizure; that is, they obtained the proof against you illegally. He/she can also argue that the officer did not have any probable cause to pull you over, investigate, or arrest you for DUI. And if the arresting officer failed to read you your Miranda rights before interrogating you, your lawyer could argue along that line.
If any of your legal rights were violated, your lawyer would request a suppression hearing. This hearing will serve to exclude any proof that was not properly obtained and grant your attorney a pre-trial chance to poke holes into the DA’s case and possibly convince them to reduce or drop the charges against you.
Frequently, VC 23153 charges are lowered to VC 23152 charges because it’s often hard for the prosecutor to substantiate that it was your negligent act that resulted in the victim sustaining, other than the supposed fact you were merely intoxicated.
Because there’s a significant difference between a VC 23153 felony or misdemeanor filing, pre-filing intervention by your lawyer before the charges against you are officially filed in court is critical. Pre-filing intervention is the attorney’s effort to persuade the prosecution to dismiss the charges before formal charges are filed.
As mentioned, the DA has the power to charge DUI with injury either as a misdemeanor or a felony. If you retain an attorney early enough in the course of the court process, he/she can negotiate with the DA and manage to convince them to press misdemeanor instead of felony charges.
A pre-filing intervention focuses on mitigating factors in your case, including:
- Character, accomplishments, reputation, background
- Any effort at rehabilitation, for instance, alcohol treatment.
- Collateral consequences should you be convicted of a felony.
- Payment of victim restitution upfront
- Demonstration of remorse
- The minor nature of the supposed injuries
In most cases, an aggressive pre-filing intervention position successfully persuades the DA to go ahead with the filing of a misdemeanor instead of a felony charge.
Penalties for a DUI With Injury
The punishments of a violation of VC 23153 vary significantly based on whether it is the first or subsequent DUI crime within ten years and the facts surrounding your case. DUIs are priorable offenses, meaning that the penalties you will face necessarily increase with every subsequent conviction.
Unlike DUI without injury under VC 23152, a third drunk- or drugged-driving causing injury crime under Vehicle Code 23153 will automatically be charged as a felony. The following are the penalties you may face if found guilty of a felony or misdemeanor DUI with an injury. It’s usually compulsory that offenders install an IID (ignition interlock device) in the vehicles for a given period if found guilty of violating VC 23153.
Felony DUI Causing Injury Consequences
The felony punishments for DUI causing injury are:
- A fine ranging from $1,015 to $5,000
- A strike on your criminal record as per the Three Strike’s law should anyone apart from you sustain significant bodily injury.
- Four, three, or two years in prison. You will face additional and consecutive three to six years in prison in case any victim sustains significant bodily harm, and an additional and consecutive one year in prison for every additional victim that sustains physical harm (up to a maximum of three years)
- An eighteen- or thirty-month DUI school, which should be approved by the court
- HTO (Habitual Traffic Offender) title for up to three years
- A revocation/suspension of your driver’s license for five years (you may be allowed to continue using your vehicle with no restrictions if you install it with an IID for one year
Misdemeanor DUI With Injury Punishments
Misdemeanor penalties for violating VC 23153 are:
- Summary (informal) probation for a period ranging from between three and five years
- A minimum of five days and a maximum of a year in jail
- A fine ranging from $390 to $5,000
- A thirty, eighteen, nine, or three-month drug or alcohol education program that must be approved by the court
- Restitution to all the injured victims
- A three or one-year suspension/revocation of your driver’s license (you may be allowed to continue driving with no restriction if you install an IID in your vehicle for six months
Related Offenses to DUI With Injury
There are various crimes that, based on the facts surrounding the charges, the prosecutor may charge you with instead of or in addition to DUI with an injury. The following are the most common:
Child Endangerment – PC 273(a)
The prosecution could charge you under PC 273(a) if you had a minor passenger in your vehicle during the commission of the DUI with an injury crime. A child endangerment crime is a wobbler. Misdemeanor consequences include six months in jail or misdemeanor probation and up to $1,000 in fines. If found guilty of child endangerment as a felony, you could serve a prison sentence of two, four, or six years and pay up to $10,000 in fines. Alternatively, the judge could sentence you a minimum of four years of a felony instead of a prison sentence.
Felony Hit and Run Involving Death or Injury – VC 20001
The DA may prosecute you under VC 2000 if, after you’re involved in a collision, you do not stop at the scene to give your details and provide reasonable help to any person who requires medical attention. Even though we are dealing with VC 23153 DUI with injury— which means that you’re to blame for the crash— you should keep in mind that these requirements apply irrespective of liability.
Hit and run is a wobbler crime. It can be prosecuted either as a felony or misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties you will face include a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 and a county jail sentence of up to a year or summary probation.
If convicted of a felony, your punishments may include up to $10,000 in fines and a maximum prison sentence of four years or formal (felony) probation.
Vehicular Manslaughter While DUI - PC 191.5
The DA could prosecute you under PC 191.5(b), a more severe offense than DUI with injury, under either of these circumstances.
- You operate a vehicle while intoxicated, violate another statute, or act negligently, and as a result, cause the demise of someone else, or
- When operating a vehicle while intoxicated, you acted in a way that’s likely to cause someone else’s demise and thus caused the individual’s death. This is the more severe form of PC 191.5 violation, called gross vehicular manslaughter while DUI.
Vehicular manslaughter while DUI is a wobbler offense. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor, consequences will include misdemeanor probation, a maximum fine of $1,000, and up to a year in jail. And if it is a felony conviction, the penalties will be felony probation, up to $10,000 in fines, and sixteen months, two, or four years of a prison sentence. A conviction of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is punishable by felony probation, up to $10,000 in fines, and a prison sentence of four, six, or ten years.
Contact a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Near Me
DUI with injury is a crime not taken lightly under California DUI law. It could result in harsh consequences upon conviction, which include the loss of your privilege to drive. For this reason, you should seek the help of a DUI criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with this crime. If you are facing charges in Los Angeles, contact the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer right away. Our lawyers will give you legal advice throughout the court process so you won’t make further mistakes that could land you in more trouble, and will also work to defend your rights. What is even better is that our lawyers have excellent negotiation skills. They may be capable of persuading the DA to reduce charges to avoid severe penalties for a felony conviction. Contact us at 310-502-1314 for an initial consultation to collect your case facts and start building a solid defense strategy right away.