Drunk driving in Los Angeles, CA, is a serious offense with severe consequences. However, California statutes aggravate the penalties upon conviction if a DUI causes an accident that results in injuries to another individual. The stakes here are high in these cases. The reason being an offense that would have otherwise been a misdemeanor becomes a felony if there is an injury. This is regardless of the extent of the injuries. For this reason, it’s critical to retain legal representation.
At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we defend you against all types of DUIs, including DUI causing injury. For this reason, we are willing to protect your rights and freedom by ensuring that you are not subject to the harsh penalties that come with a conviction for this offense.
Overview of California DUI Causing Injury
As per California VC 23153, it is illegal to drive a car while drunk or drugged and concurrently inflict harm on someone else through negligent or unlawful conduct. Whether you will face a misdemeanor or felony charge depends on the nature of your case.
Code 23153 (a) points out that a simple misdemeanor rises into a felony DUI if someone sustains injuries resulting from your drug or alcohol use. This can be tricky for you even if it’s your first drunk driving charge because the prosecutor will charge you with a felony regardless of how slight the injuries caused are.
When you operate a car with a BAC of .08 percent and violate the law causing injuries to someone else, code 23153(b) points out that the offense is a felony with a possibility of prison incarceration. On top of the prison sentence, you may have to compensate the victims of your DUI accident, lose your job, professional license, pay hefty fines, and court fees.
The law also makes it illegal for an individual under the influence of any drug to get behind the wheel and, at the same time, engage in a negligent or prohibited act hence contributing or causing bodily injury to someone else.
The Elements of a DUI Causing Injuries
For you to end up with a conviction for a DUI causing injury under VC 23153, the prosecutor must demonstrate particular elements beyond reasonable certainty. The facts of the offense include:
- You did commit a DUI or violated DUI laws
- While drinking and driving, you disregarded an additional statute or engaged in negligent behavior.
- The illegal conduct or negligence caused injuries to another person
As mentioned earlier, the violation of VC 23153 happens in three ways. Under the influence could mean driving while impaired due to alcohol intoxication. It could also mean operating a car with a BAC level of 0.08% or greater. And lastly, driving a vehicle when drugs impair your ability to drive.
Note that if you were operating a commercial vehicle while under the influence, causing injury to another individual, the prosecuting team would need to demonstrate you drove the commercial car with a BAC of .04% or above.
The elements of the VC 23153 violation are further discussed below:
You Operated a Vehicle under the Influence or with a Blood Alcohol Level of .08% or more.
For purposes of this topic, being under the influence means impairment of your mental or physical abilities to the extent that you cannot operate the car safely or cautiously, just like an ordinary or sober person would drive, under a situation like yours.
DUI of drugs under California VC 23152(f) includes illegal, OTC, and prescription drugs.
You Violated the Law or Otherwise Engaged in Negligent Conduct
Vehicle Code 23153 provides that you must act negligently or violate a given statute on top of driving under the influence.
Additionally, the prosecutor must show that any of these was the direct cause of injuries on the other person. The harm shouldn’t be due to any other things like hazardous road conditions, bad weather, or faulty traffic lights. Just because you were involved in drunk driving that resulted in injuries, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are guilty of violating VC 23153. It must be clear that the injuries were directly caused by breaking the law or acting negligently. Being intoxicated alone doesn’t satisfy this element.
For instance, you are DUI, then all over sudden, a sober driver hits your car after running a red light. If the sober driver sustains injuries, you are likely to face charges of DUI causing injuries. However, in this case, this will not happen because you didn’t break the law or act negligently, causing injuries. You will be charged with DUI but not DUI causing injury. Of course, if you are the party that caused the accident by speeding or violating the law and directly caused injuries, you will face charges under VC 23153.
Penalties for VC 23153 DUI Causing Injury
The penalties imposed after a DUI causing injury conviction depend on the number of people injured and the injuries’ extent. On top of the case’s facts, DUI is a priorable offense, which means your prior DUIs within ten years will enhance your punishment. If you have to prior VC 23153 violations, your third will be a felony. However, if the injuries are severe, the charges will rise to great bodily injury (GBI).
Keeping in mind the variance in these penalties, you should consider retaining the services of an experienced defense attorney. Speaking to an attorney from The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm could be the difference between facing misdemeanor or felony charges.
Highlighted below are forms of ramifications and punishments for a conviction for DUI causing injury. Further, you should note that beginning 2019, installing an ignition interlock device in the vehicle for a specific duration is obligatory.
Misdemeanor Vehicle Code 23153
A misdemeanor DUI causing injury is punishable by:
- Three to five years unsupervised probation
- Court fees and fines of from $390 to $5,000
- Full restitution for the injured parties
- Driver’s license suspension ranging from twelve to thirty-six months
- Los Angeles county jail custody of from five days to twelve months
- The court imposed California DUI school ranging from three to thirty months
Felony DUI Causing Injury
A felony drunk or drugged driving causing injury attracts the following ramifications:
- Twenty-four, thirty-six, or forty-eight months state incarceration
- If a person suffers GBI because of your action while drinking and driving, you will get an additional 36 months on your incarceration time.
- For every person that is injured, the judge will impose an extra 12 months jail custody up to a maximum of thirty-six months.
- A strike on your criminal record as per the Three Strikes Law in the event the victim sustains GBI.
- Court fines and fees ranging from $1,015 to $5,000
- Enlisting as a habitual traffic offender for three years
- Between eighteen to thirty months of court-approved DUI school
- Driver’s license revocation for up to 60 months
Take note that if the person who sustains injuries becomes comatose, you will get an extra five years on your felony DUI state imprisonment. The ramifications will be severer if the victim succumbs to the injuries.
Contesting DUI Causing Injury Charges
Drunk driving charges in California are severe, but what is more serious is a DUI causing injury. As seen above, the penalties upon conviction are severe. Fortunately, an experienced criminal attorney can have the penalties reduced if sentencing is imminent, but the priority should be fighting the charges to get a dismissal or acquittal. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we have legal experts to help you with that.
Fighting California VC 23153 charges is not different from contesting drinking and driving charges. The common legal defenses for these charges include:
You were not Driving Under the Influence
When proving your actions when DUI caused injuries, the prosecuting attorney first demonstrates that you were violating California drunk driving laws. So, if you can argue that you were not under the influence initially, the VC 23153 charges will not hold in court. Our attorneys can prove that you were not impaired when the injuries were sustained and that the BAC was within the legal limit.
Your attorney can further examine the evidence presented and point out the blood or breath tests’ inconsistencies. Analyzing the police report could also help the attorney find anomalies in the testing and arresting officer’s conduct at the time of the traffic stop to prove you were not intoxicated.
You didn’t Engage in Illegal or Negligent Conduct
Drunk or drugged driving alone is not sufficient to convict you for VC 23153 violation. They must demonstrate that someone was injured because of a breach of the law or negligent actions in how you operated the vehicle. Where necessary, the attorney can consult with accident reconstruction experts to show who was at fault or the cause of the accident.
Remember, police might jump to the conclusion that you are to blame for the accident and subsequent injuries because you were drunk or drugged, whereas it’s not true. Such believes can influence how the investigation is conducted and the facts captured in the police report. Thankfully, with the help of an attorney and accident reconstruction experts, you can rebuild the events that led to the crash to prove something else like bad weather, poor road conditions, or defective parts caused the accident and the concurrent injuries.
In most cases, VC 235153 charges are reduced to DUI under 23152 because it’s usually challenging to demonstrate that it was negligence or breaking of the law that caused the victim’s injuries, rather than the fact that you, as the defendant, you were under the influence.
Your attorney could also enter into a plea negotiation with the prosecutor for a more lenient sentence.
During plea bargaining with the prosecuting attorney, you can try to make them reduce or dismiss the DUI causing injury charges. This could happen if your actions did not cause the injuries or compensate the victims of your negligent acts to their satisfaction. Also, if, as a defendant, you have earned a consideration of leniency by demonstrating remorse and made efforts in dealing with sobriety, the court could dismiss the charges.
Similarly, if you are granted probation in your DUI causing injury case. In that case, the court can impose a sentence that doesn’t include prison incarceration even if you pleaded guilty to a felony drunk driving charge. However, if you inflicted GBI on the victim, and you end up with a conviction for a felony DUI, you might not be eligible for probation.
The court usually evaluates particular factors to determine if you have demonstrated leniency after VC 23153 charges. The factors that the judge and the prosecuting team must assess are:
Rehabilitation and Treatment
The primary factor that the judge and prosecuting team consider to determine if you are eligible for leniency in a felony DUI causing injury is your commitment to drug or alcohol rehabilitation and treatment. There are several ways of showing promise, but the best way to begin is by attending AA meetings.
When attending the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, you carry a log sheet to be signed by the person supervising the meeting. If the log sheet shows you have been following these meetings consistently, even when the court hasn’t imposed them on you. In that case, it indicates a positive attitude and a show of commitment to address your alcohol problem.
In cases where you are an alcoholic, formal treatment and rehabilitation facilities are available where you can seek inpatient or outpatient treatment.
Many rehabilitation facilities in LA are familiar with the criminal court system and often provide progress reports and analysis to demonstrate that you are committed to treatment. Your attorney can negotiate with the District Attorney to have you admitted to rehab for treatment instead of jail time.
It’s possible to avoid jail custody after a conviction for DUI causing injury by paying restitution to the injured victims. And because the DA and the judge consider the financial hardship, you have put the victim of your DUI incident to determine the penalties. However, if you fully compensate the victims as soon as possible, the damages they will order you to pay the victim like lost wages, doctor’s bills, and pain and suffering will be more lenient.
Remember, in most cases, DUI accident personal injury cases take months or years to be heard and decided. The court fees plus other expenses victims incur because of the injuries or losing income can be emotionally and financially devastating. However, if you compensate the victim quickly and thoroughly, you will protect them from financial constraints. The court will consider this as a mitigating factor when deciding your sentence.
Your efforts to make a positive change after a violation of VC 23153 can be used as a mitigation package to avoid jail incarceration. The set encompasses the documentation of character references from friends, colleagues, and family members.
Any other thing that demonstrates your good conduct and impact on society like volunteering in community work, taking part in church or religious activities can show the court your positive behavior in society. Helping the court see your positive side will be a decisive mitigating factor that will reduce your sentence.
Remember, if you don’t show the court any of your positive behaviors, they will only focus on your conduct that resulted in the violation of VC 23153, which is a wrong reflection of your lifestyle.
You can avoid jail incarceration by convincing the prosecutor not to pursue jail custody. In exchange for this, you must volunteer to wear an ankle bracelet that detects alcohol in your blood. The device is called a scram bracelet.
After installing the device, it will monitor your BAC levels and transmit automated reports to the firm that is providing these services. If the bracelet detects any amount of alcohol in your blood or tries to meddle with the gadget, the court will receive a notification and take action.
Note that although these devices are not 100 percent accurate, the LA criminal courts trust the technology, and taking part in the program is an indicator of good faith towards staying sober.
Reach out to The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm any time you are facing VC 23153 violation charges. We will have time to analyze your case and find the right legal strategies to prevent a conviction or incarceration.
DUI Causing Injury and Related Offenses
When facing DUI causing injury charges, multiple other charges can be charged in place of or alongside the baseline charge. Discussed below are these charges:
Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated
In case you cause the death of an individual due to ordinary negligence or violating the law when DUI, you will be subject to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated as outlined under PC 191.5. Vehicular manslaughter is very similar to VC 23153, although it’s a more serious offense with devastating ramifications. The only difference is that under PC 191.5, the driver causes another person’s death instead of injuries.
Further, there is a more severe crime known as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, which requires the defendant to have acted in a manner that was likely to end another person’s life.
You will face charges for violating PC 191.5 if you operate a motor vehicle when drunk or drugged, behave negligently, or infringe any other law apart from DUI laws, causing the demise of someone else.
Also, you could face charges of violating PC 191.5 if, at the time of DUI, you engage in conduct that is likely to end another person’s life and, by this means, cause death.
The crime of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a wobbler. It means you could either face a misdemeanor charge whose sentence is no more than a year in LA county jail or a felony whose sentence is up to four years in state prison. A conviction could also result in the revocation of your driving privileges.
Fortunately, you can contest the charges and avoid the severe ramifications listed above by arguing that you didn’t act negligently. Further, you can say that you were not intoxicated, negligence didn’t cause the victim’s death, or you were facing an emergency and acted reasonably based on the circumstances.
If you have a prior DUI where before conviction, the judge warned you of the dangers of drunk or drugged driving, when you are involved in another DUI incident that results in the death of another person, you will face Watson Murder charges. This is the DUI charge that carries the harshest penalties.
Felony Hit and Run Involving Injury or Death
VC 20001 is the statute that defines felony hit and runs involving death or injury. According to this statute, after an accident, you are supposed to stop, exchange information, and offer reasonable assistance to the accident victims, whether you were at fault or not. If you fled or failed to stop and provide practical help to the DUI with injury victims, the prosecutor might file an additional charge for VC 20001 violation.
A conviction for VC 20001 violation will result in state imprisonment for no more than four years.
Child endangerment is defined under PC 273a as putting a child in a dangerous situation that is likely to result in GBI. If a minor were a passenger in your vehicle at the DUI causing injury, you would face an additional child endangerment charge. If the charge is a felony, you will face no more than six years’ incarceration in state prison.
Contact the Right DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you are facing a DUI causing injury or any other related charge in California. We invite you to reach out to The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm for an evaluation of your case. Enlisting an experienced attorney’s legal services in the early stages will enhance your chances of avoiding a conviction or jail time. Please contact us today at 310-935-1675 for a free consultation. We will give you an honest review of the case and discuss the best defense strategies.