Understand when you may and may not face this charge following an accident that involves drunk driving.
An intoxicated driver who causes an accident in which another person is injured can be charged with California DUI causing injury. California Vehicle Code Section 23153 defines the offense:
"It is unlawful for any person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug [or with a BAC of .08 or higher], to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver."
As our Los Angeles DUI Lawyers point out, however, having an accident in which someone is injured while you're DUI does not automatically make you guilty of California DUI causing injury. The law requires proof that you committed a traffic violation or other act of ordinary negligence that was the specific cause of the accident.
California DUI with injury cases often involve traffic violations like speeding, tailgating or failing to stop at a red light. When one of these violations causes an accident that injures another person, the faulty driver will be charged with California DUI causing injury if it is discovered he or she was intoxicated.
More Serious Penalties for California DUI Causing Injury
California DUI causing injury carries much more serious consequences than standard DUI. As a "wobbler, the prosecutor may decide whether to charge the offense as a misdemeanor (where the defendant faces up to a year in county jail) or a felony (where the defendant faces up to 3 years state prison with additional years for each additional person injured).
Prosecutors almost always file the charge as a felony. Worse still, if any of the injured parties is seriously hurt, the DUI defendant may be charged with a "great bodily injury" enhancement. This can add an additional three years in state prison. The "great bodily injury" enhancement also makes DUI causing injury a strike under California's Three Strikes law.
Early Intervention By A Skilled DUI Lawyer Is Key
As we said above, DUI alone does not make you guilty of this charge. But that is not how law enforcement will make you feel.
The CHP or police officers investigating an accident typically shift blame to a party who has been drinking. Their DUI accident reports tend to be biased and tend to omit details that are favorable to the DUI suspect's case. When the CHP or police officers provide these reports to prosecutors, they assume the worst about a case, as well, and bring as harsh a charge as possible.
But people don't have to believe everything law enforcement says or get steamrolled this way. Meeting with a defense attorney as soon as possible is critical in California DUI causing injury cases. Typically, we assign a team of investigators and experts to interview witnesses, conduct an independent toxicology, and develop an independent accident reconstruction analysis.
This strategy works. Our Los Angeles DUI Lawyers have seen many cases that look tough at first blush reveal multiple avenues of defense has kept our clients out of jail.