How Is "DUI Causing Injury" Defined Under California Law?
Under California Vehicle Section 23153, DUI causing injury is defined as in any way causing bodily injury to another person due to the fact you were committing a DUI or DUID.
It is required that some illegal action or negligent action of the DUI driver, aside from the DUI itself, was the proximate cause of the other person's injury.
This charge can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's past criminal record.
The underlying DUI charge can be based on a BAC of .08 or higher, driving while intoxicated so as to impair one's driving ability (regardless of BAC level), or driving while intoxicated/impaired by any drug, be it legal or illegal.
What Must the Prosecution Prove?
To gain a conviction on a DUI causing injury (VC 23153) charge, the prosecution must demonstrate the following elements of the crime beyond all reasonable doubt:
- You did, in fact, commit a DUI.
- You also committed a negligent and/or illegal act while driving DUI.
- The illegal or negligent act in question was the proximate cause of an injury to another person.
As mentioned above, BAC level or any impairment of your driving ability due to the presence of alcohol and/or drugs in your system is grounds for a DUI. For commercial drivers, only .04% BAC is required (instead of .08), and for drivers under 21, only .01% BAC counts as a DUI.
Any impairment whatsoever, if it causes you to drive with less caution than what a sober person would be expected to have in the same situation, is DUI regardless of BAC level.
Any traffic violations, like speeding, running a red light, or passing in a no-passing zone; and any negligent acts, like following too close, failing to pay attention to the road, or failing to brake in time; can be grounds for a conviction.
But the prosecutor must also show that the act in question directly caused the injury. It can't just be that adverse weather conditions, a malfunctioning traffic light, or the other driver's poor driving decisions caused the injury, while the defendant happened to be DUI at the time.
A DUI causing injury charge can be a misdemeanor or felony in California. As a misdemeanor, it is punishable by:
- From 5 days to 12 months in county jail.
- 3 to 5 years of summary probation.
- A license suspension lasting from 1 to 3 years.
- A 3 to 30 month long California DUI School.
- Fines and fees of from $390 to $5,000, plus full restitution to all injured parties.
If it's your 3rd DUI causing injury conviction (within the last 10 years), it's an automatic felony. It's possible for a 1st or 2nd offense to be a felony in some situations as well.
Felony DUI with injury is punishable by:
- From 2 to 4 years in state prison. An additional 3 to 6 years can apply if "great" bodily injury was inflicted. And you can get an extra year per person (up to 3 extra years) if more than one person was injured as a result of your DUI.
- Formal probation.
- A license revocation of 5 years.
- An 18 to 30 month long DUI Class.
- Fines of $1,015 to $5,000, plus full restitution to any and all victims.
- Being listed as a "Habitual Traffic Offender" for 3 years.
- It's a "strike" on your criminal record under California's Three Strikes law IF great bodily injury was caused.
Common Defense Strategies
Any DUI charge is extremely serious, but DUI causing injury (VC 23153) is especially serious. As shown just above, it has very severe potential penalties. A good lawyer can often get some of these penalties reduced even upon a conviction, but first and foremost you need to fight for a dismissal or acquittal - and we at The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel are experts at helping you do just that.
We have won numerous dismissals, acquittals, and reduced charges and sentences in favorable pleas in VC 23153 defense cases for residents of the San Fernando Valley Region and elsewhere in California, over many, many years of service to local communities.
Here are some of the most frequently employed defense strategies with which we have been successful:
- No DUI Occurred.
If we can prevent the prosecution from proving DUI to begin with, then obviously, no DUI with injury charge can hold. You can check out our other pages on this website for detailed description of how we defeat a DUI charge. Suffice it to say here, we can seek to show your driving was not impaired, your BAC was not .08 or higher, or that your rights were violated during the traffic stop and arrest.
- No Illegal or Negligent Act Occurred.
It's not enough for the prosecution to simply show that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an accident occurred, and someone was injured. They have to show that you committed some kind of traffic violation, other illegal act, or were negligent in the way you drove the vehicle. We will work hard to reconstruct the accident and investigate the scene, police report, witnesses, and more. Many times, no illegal/negligent act can be proved.
- You Did Not Cause the Injury
If you caused the accident, you likely caused the injury (although, there could be rare exception to this, say if a vehicle exploded into flames due to defective parts, in what would otherwise have been a minor incident.) But often, bad weather, poor road conditions, a vehicle not well maintained by another driver, poor driving decisions of the other driver, or even the actions of a 3rd driver, could have been the real cause of the accident/injury rather than the DUI.
When DUI causing injury (VC 23153) is charged, there are often other charges that end up charged along with or instead of the initial charge. Prosecutors may make multiple from the beginning or reduce a charge later due to lack of evidence or as part of a plea bargain.
Here are some of the most common related charges to be aware of if you are going into a VC 23153 defense case:
- Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (PC 191.5). If due to ordinary negligence while DUI, you caused the death of another person, it's "vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated." If a greater degree of negligence, called "gross" negligence, was involved, then it's gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. These crimes have very severe penalties since they caused a fatality.
- Felony hit-and-run with injury/death (VC 20001). If you fled the scene of the accident and/or failed to give reasonable assistance to injured parties at the scene of the accident, then that is an additional (and very serious) charge on top of any DUI with injury charge.
- Child endangerment (PC 273a). If a child (under 18) was in the car with you while you committed DUI with injury, or any other DUI for that matter, you could also be charged with child endangerment, which can be punished by as long as 6 years in state prison. Putting a child into a dangerous situation likely to produce great bodily injury is the legal definition of California child endangerment.
Contact Us Today for Immediate Assistance!
If you or someone you love are facing a DUI causing injury or other serious DUI charge in the San Fernando Valley or other regions of California, do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel today!
Call us anytime 24/7, 365 days a day (holidays inclusive), at 818-582-2350, for a free, no-obligation consultation on the details of your case. We look forward to helping you defend your license, your record, and your future!