California has the most stringent rules on drunk driving. Individuals who operate their vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs face serious DUI charges. Independently, drunk driving is a misdemeanor. If you drive under the influence of alcohol and cause an accident and injuries to another person, you will face a more severe charge of DUI causing injury under California Vehicle Code 23153.
When proving your guilt under this statute, the prosecution must prove that you drove a vehicle under the alcohol influence and that you caused an accident and injuries to another person. The consequences of a conviction for DUI with injury go far beyond prison time and fines. Having such a conviction on your criminal record will impact your ability to find employment or obtain a professional license.
If you or your loved one faces charges for DUI causing injury, hiring and retaining a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney by your side is important. At San Luis Obispo DUI attorneys, we will investigate your case's factors and help you build a strong defense to fight your charges. We serve clients seeking legal guidance and representation to beat VC 23153 and other DUI charges in San Luis Obispo, CA.
An Overview of California Vehicle Code 23153
If you drive a motor vehicle while intoxicated and cause an accident that leaves behind injured victims, you could face an arrest and charges for DUI causing injury. DUI with injury is addressed under California Vehicle Code 23153, and a conviction for the offense attracts far worse consequences than a simple DUI. Before you face a conviction under this statute, the prosecutor must establish these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
You Drove a Motor Vehicle
The first element that must be clear for all DUI convictions in California is that you operated a vehicle. Proving that you were driving at the time of the accident is fairly easy for the prosecution since they rely on the accident report from the police officers or eyewitness testimony.
You Operated the Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Both
DUI causing injury is a crime arising when you cause an accident while drunk driving. Therefore, the evidence of your intoxication must be clear. Under California DUI laws, drunk driving involves operating a vehicle with a Blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. Your BAC can be measured using a breath or blood test. Therefore, the prosecution must present the results of these tests to ascertain this element.
You Engaged in an Illegal Act or Neglected a Legal Duty
Your guilt under VC 23153 requires that you either violated a law or failed to use reasonable caution under the circumstances. Traffic officers do not perform DUI breath tests on all drivers involved in an accident. The officers must have probable cause to believe that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Usually, conduct such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or drug paraphernalia in your vehicle may form probable cause for further investigation.
Your Actions or Inaction Caused Another Person’s Injury
The element that distinguishes DUI with injury from simple DUI is that your actions cause an accident and injuries to another person. You must understand that your illegal action does not need to be the only cause of the person’s injury. However, the prosecutor must prove that your actions were primary to the accident or injuries.
Sentencing and Penalties for DUI Causing Injury
DUI with injury is a wobbler. A wobbler is an offense that could attract felony or misdemeanor charges. Although the prosecution has discretion when filing the charges, the following factors may play a significant part in your charges:
- Criminal history. California DUI laws are stringent on repeat offenders. You can be charged with a misdemeanor if you do not have prior DUI convictions. However, If the current charge is your third DUI causing injuries, you can be charged with a felony.
- The severity of the injuries. The nature of the victim’s injuries may dictate how the prosecution charges your case. In cases where your actions cause significant bodily injury, you will face felony charges.
The penalties you face for DUI causing injuries include:
Whether you face a felony or misdemeanor conviction, violation of VC 23153 will result in time behind bars. As a misdemeanor, this crime is punishable by a jail sentence of five days to one year. On the other hand, a felony conviction will result in a prison sentence ranging from sixteen months to ten years.
The court could combine a jail or prison sentence with fines. A misdemeanor DUI with injury is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000. If you suffer a felony conviction, you could face fines and penalty assessments ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.
In California, probation is an alternative to spending time behind bars. You may be eligible for probation for both a misdemeanor and felony conviction. If you suffer a misdemeanor conviction, you must serve informal probation that lasts one to three years. However, for a felony conviction, you serve formal probation for three to five years.
Not all defendants facing DUI with injury charges are eligible for probation. You must negotiate with the prosecution to receive this sentence. While probation allows you to serve part or your entire sentence out of jail, the court will attach some strict conditions you must follow throughout the probation period. Common conditions of probation under this state include:
- Avoid engaging in further criminal activity.
- Installation of an ignition interlock device.
- Regular check-ins with a probation officer for felony probation.
- Completion of court-approved DUI school.
- Random alcohol and drug testing.
A violation of any of the probation conditions could attract additional charges for probation violation.
Driver’s License Suspension
One of the most dreaded consequences of a VC 23153 conviction is the loss of your driving privileges. After an arrest for DUI causing injury, you can lose your license through a suspension by the court or by the Department of Motor Vehicle. Once the DMV learns of your arrest, they will attempt to suspend the license immediately. You can put a hold on the suspension by scheduling a DMV hearing to contest the administrative suspension.
In California, you must schedule a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest. Failure to do this will result in an automatic suspension. A DMV hearing is less formal compared to a DUI court case. Therefore, the burden of proof is lower. For this reason, the hearing officer does not need to prove any element beyond a reasonable doubt. If by a preponderance of the evidence, it is clear that you drove a vehicle while intoxicated, you can lose your license.
You can attend your DMV hearing at the DMV offices or by phone. At this hearing, you can present evidence proving that you did not drive the vehicle under the influence. Although the DMV hearing is separate from the criminal court proceedings, attending the hearing offers significant benefits for your PC 23153 case.
First, you can glimpse the evidence that the prosecution has against you. This can help you build a solid defense against your charges. A win in the DMV hearing can convince the criminal court that you most likely did not engage in the alleged drunk driving behavior. There are two primary outcomes of the DMV hearing. If you lose a DMV hearing after your arrest for DUI causing injury, you risk facing a license suspension of three to five years. However, if you win, you can continue to operate your vehicle as you await the outcome of your criminal case.
Restitution is the amount you pay to victims of your reckless or criminal acts to cover the cost of their injuries. Victim restitution aims to ensure that the people affected by your actions walk away without spending to cover the losses associated with the accident. Victim restitution differs from court fines since it is paid directly to the victim. The amount you will need to pay as victim restitution will vary depending on the severity of the injuries.
Penalty Enhancements for DUI Causing Injury
If you cause serious injuries while driving under the influence, you could face enhanced penalties for your VC 23153 conviction, including:
- Three to six years in prison if the victim suffered severe bodily injury.
- An additional year of incarceration for each victim of the accident.
- One additional point to your driving record for each case of serious injury.
- Bring labeled a Habitual Traffic Offender for three years.
The enhanced sentence is consecutive to your original sentence for DUI causing injuries. Seeking legal guidance is critical when you face charges under this statute.
Defense Against DUI Causing Injury
The stakes are high for defendants facing charges of DUI causing injury. Immediately after the arrest, you should contact a skilled attorney to guide you through the case. Some of the defenses your attorney can present against the charges include the following:
You Were not Under the Influence
Your drunk driving conduct plays a significant part in DUI with injury charges. You cannot be guilty of violating VC 23153 if it is unclear whether you were under the influence. Since the breath and blood tests provide critical evidence to prove this fact, you can work your defense by challenging the results.
One of the ways you can challenge your BAC test results is by arguing that you had a rising BAC. Accident investigations may take a while. This means that your BAC may have been below the legal limit but rose gradually throughout the time of investigations. If the prosecution relies on the breath test results, you can argue that the breathalyzer device was faulty.
You were Not Driving the Vehicle
You are only guilty of DUI causing injury if you were the person driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. Most people will move out of their cars to seek safety or help others when accidents occur. Therefore, police officers may lack enough evidence to prove that you were driving the vehicle.
Evidence that you caused injury to another person establishes the elements of a crime under California VC 23153. Therefore, if you can prove that no one suffered an injury from your actions, you can avoid a conviction under this statute. However, you must understand that as long as you drive under the influence, you can still face a conviction for a simple DUI under PC 23152.
You Did Not Engage in an Illegal Act
Prosecutors only prove you guilty under this statute if you engaged in an illegal or negligent act. Therefore, showing that you did not omit a legal duty or violate the laws is a valid defense for your case.
Offenses Related to Vehicle Code 23153
When you face criminal charges for DUI causing injuries, there are some related offenses that the prosecution can incorporate in your case, including:
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
Under California VC 23152, you commit the crime of DUI when you operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0,08% or more. Additionally, impaired conduct while driving could attract charges under this statute. For defendants facing charges for DUI with injuries, having their charges reduced to simple DUI is one of the best outcomes of the case.
Often, the prosecutor must prove all elements of DUI causing injuries before securing a conviction. If the evidence proving injuries to a third party is unclear, your attorney can convince the prosecutor to reduce your charges.
The only elements that must be clear to obtain a conviction under VC 23152 are that you drove a vehicle and were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unlike DUI causing injury, simple DUI is always charged as a misdemeanor. A conviction under this statute attracts the following penalties:
- A jail sentence of up to six months.
- Three to five years of summary probation.
- Fines that do not exceed $1,000.
- Driver’s license suspension of up to six months.
Both the criminal and DMV penalties for DUI causing injury are higher than those for simple DUI. Having a skilled DUI lawyer by your side is key in ensuring you face a less serious charge.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
California Penal Code 191.5(a) defines gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated as the unlawful killing of another person while driving a vehicle under alcohol or drug influence. If you cause an accident and injuries while operating a vehicle with gross negligence, the prosecution can file charges for DUI causing injuries or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Unlike murder, manslaughter is less serious and involves unintentional killing.
Before you face a conviction for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the prosecution must prove the following elements:
- You drove a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. This could mean that your blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit or your driving conduct was impaired by alcohol use.
- You acted with gross negligence. Gross negligence means that your reckless actions presented a substantial risk of injury or death to another person. The level of negligence required to obtain a conviction under PC 191.5(a) is greater than a simple error of judgment. Your actions are considered grossly negligent if they are far from what a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.
- You committed a lawful act that resulted in the death of another person. Penal Code 191.5(a) charges will only stick if your negligent acts caused another person’s death.
Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is a felony. If you face a conviction under this statute, you risk facing a prison sentence of four, six, or ten years. Additionally, the court could impose a maximum of $10,000 in fines.
DUI Hit and Run
Hit and run is the crime you commit when you cause an accident and flee the accident scene. Failure to stop after injuring another person attracts serious felony charges. However, when you add DUI into the mix, your charges become more serious, and the consequences of a conviction are more severe. If you face a conviction for DUI hit and run, you will face the penalties for both offenses. The penalties for felony hit and run include:
- A prison sentence of two to four years when the injury is severe
- Fines of up to $10,000
In addition to prison time and fines, a conviction for a DUI hit and run will seriously affect your personal and professional life.
Find a Reliable DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
If you drive under the influence of alcohol and cause an injury to another person, you could face an arrest and criminal charges for DUI causing injury. Whether you face charges for a misdemeanor or felony under California Vehicle Code 23153, the penalties of a conviction could be serious and life-changing. In addition to spending time in jail or prison, you could lose your driver’s license in a suspension or revocation.
While DUI-causing injury is a serious crime, not all arrests result in a conviction. With the guidance of a skilled DUI defense attorney, you can explore various defenses to help reduce your charges or dismiss them. Seeking legal guidance can make a significant difference between spending time behind bars and walking away with a not-guilty verdict or dismissed charges. At San Luis Obispo DUI Attorneys, we offer top-notch legal guidance and representation for all our clients battling DUI-related charges in San Luis Obispo, CA. Contact us today at 805-321-1000 to discuss the details of your case.