You have decided to drive home after hanging out at a local bar. Despite consuming several drinks, you believe you are still within the lawful BAC (blood alcohol concentration) limit when leaving the bar. On the roadway, you run a stop sign and crash into another motorist who sustains an injury, and now the state is charging you with DUI causing injury under California DUI laws.
The consequences of DUI causing injury can be severe, and you want to hire a skilled DUI defense lawyer who understands the law to help you fight if you have been charged. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we have lawyers specialized in defending DUI cases, including DUI causing injury, for clients charged in Pasadena and the surrounding areas. These lawyers have decades of experience, understand California DUI laws, and know how the local courts operate. They will closely examine your case details and develop an effective defense strategy to achieve the most favorable outcome. Call our law firm for a consultation to know your legal options and how we can help you.
Overview of California DUI with Injury
The DUI with injury criminal conduct is described under VC 23153. If you operate a vehicle while drunk or high on drugs and consequently cause bodily harm to another party, California prosecutors could charge you with the criminal offense of DUI with injury. It is crucial to remember that driving while drunk or on drugs under this law includes:
- VC 23152(a), DUI.
- VC23152(b), operating a vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or more.
- VC 23152(f), operating a vehicle while intoxicated with drugs, including prescription medications.
Prosecutors can charge the case either as a felony or misdemeanor crime. Note there is a difference between DUI and DUI with a .08% or more BAC. DUI includes drugs and alcohol, and the prosecution must prove that your mental and physical capabilities were impaired at the time of driving to be convicted. DUI with a .08% or more BAC refers to the alcohol amount detectable in your bloodstream. If the alcohol amount detected in your bloodstream is .08% or higher, you are automatically considered to be driving while intoxicated and will be charged with DUI regardless of whether or not you were impaired.
A common instance of DUI with injury is when you drive home after hanging out in a bar and have a BAC higher than 0.08%. While driving, you run a stop sign and crash into another auto, and the accident results in the driver of the vehicle you crashed into suffering a head injury.
What Are the Elements of this Criminal Offense
For the judge to pronounce you guilty of VC 23153 violation, they must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, these elements as listed under CALCRIM Jury Instructions 2100 or 2101.
- You drove.
- While intoxicated with alcohol, drugs, or both.
- With a .08% or greater BAC.
- While driving drunk or on drugs, you neglected to do a legal obligation or committed an unlawful act.
- Your unlawful action or neglect to do a legal obligation caused bodily harm to another party.
It is essential to remember that if it is a commercial driver accused of DUI with injury, the prosecution only needs to show you were operating the vehicle with a .04% or higher BAC.
Also, remember that being intoxicated under the DUI with injury law means, due to consuming drugs or alcohol, your mental or physical capabilities were impaired to the extent you could not drive your auto with caution as a sober driver would. Lastly, note that driving while intoxicated with drugs also includes the prescription medication you are on.
Most people ask questions concerning the last two elements of the crime. It is worth repeating that these elements of the crime concern the accused committing an unlawful act or neglecting to do a legal obligation.
Unlawful Act and Neglecting to Do a Duty
For you to be convicted of violating 23153 VC, you must have:
- Acted negligently/neglected to exercise ordinary care given the circumstances.
- Committed a certain illegal act or violated a certain law (for instance, running a stop sign).
Regarding the former, exercising ordinary care implies using reasonable caution to avert reasonably predictable harm upon another party.
Additionally, you fail to use ordinary care when you:
- Do an action that any reasonably careful party would not perform under the same circumstances.
- Fail to do an activity that any reasonably cautious individual would do under a similar situation.
Consider this example: Chris drives home from a pub after consuming a few drinks. While on the road, he becomes annoyed with the driver before him, driving rather slowly. As Chris and the other driver approach the nearby intersection, Chris accelerates and tries passing the motorist ahead by driving on the right shoulder. The other driver crashes into the side of Chris's vehicle as he tries to turn right and is hurt.
In this case, Chris will likely be convicted of DUI causing injury. He was driving while intoxicated and failed to exercise reasonable caution under those circumstances. Regarding the latter, any reasonably careful motorist would not try overtaking another vehicle by speeding at an intersection.
Consequences for DUI with Injury
A DUI with injury offense is a wobbler in California. A wobbler is a crime that the prosecutor can charge either as a felony or misdemeanor. If convicted, the consequences will be based on your case facts and the number of prior DUI convictions you have had.
If you are a first-time DUI offender or have a single past DUI conviction in the last ten years, a DUI-with-injury crime will usually be tried as a misdemeanor. A conviction will carry a maximum of one year in jail, summary probation for up to five years, two points on your DMV record, a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, victim restitution, a driver's license suspension for three years by the DMV, and DUI class.
If guilty of a felony DUI causing injury under VC 23153, you will face:
- A prison sentence of a maximum of four years.
- A fine not exceeding five thousand dollars.
- An additional one rear for every victim who suffered an injury.
- DUI school.
- Mandatory IID(ignition interlock device) installation.
- An additional three to six years for every victim who suffered significant bodily injury.
- Victim restitution.
- HTO (habitual traffic offender) title for three years.
- Driver's license suspension for five years by the DMV.
- Mandatory IID installation.
- Two points on your DMV record.
- Per the state's Three Strikes laws, a strike on your criminal record if anybody other than you suffered significant bodily injury.
Restitution is the money you pay the victim or victims involved in your DUI with injury case to compensate for the expenses they incurred on their injuries. It is legally meant to make whole their losses, so they do have to lose even a cent due to the crash. Restitution can be extremely costly when hospital expenses are factored in— anywhere from tens of thousands to two hundred thousand dollars or more. Your liability insurance could pay all or some of the amount. However, if the amount is too significant, you will need to pay the remaining out of your pocket.
The good news is you can negotiate restitution with help from your attorney. Most victims inflate the actual costs or include costs unrelated to their injury. Your attorney has the chance to assess the expenses the victim/victims allege they have incurred and dispute if they are excessive. At this stage, an experienced attorney can make the difference between having your insurance cover all the expenses or going bankrupt. Even if the court finds you guilty of DUI with injury, you may walk away without any debt.
And if sentenced to either a misdemeanor or felony probation, the judge will impose various conditions irrespective of whether it is your first, second, or subsequent conviction. These conditions include:
- If arrested for DUI, you should agree to undergo DUI blood or breath testing ( these tests may also include a PAS (preliminary alcohol screening) test).
- You should not commit any additional crime while on probation.
- You should not drive with any detectable BAC.
- Complete Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victims impact panel.
- Community labor or service.
- Complete HAM (Hospital and Morgue) program.
Apart from criminal penalties, a felony DUI causing injury conviction can subject you to collateral consequences. Even after successfully serving your sentence, a felony DUI with injury conviction would mean:
- Immigration consequences like deportation, inadmissibility, and denial of U.S citizenship.
- Loss of firearm ownership rights.
- Loss of your right to vote.
- Loss of your professional license.
- Loss of future or present employment.
Winning Chances If Accused of DUI With Injury
DUI defense attorneys win DUI causing injury cases almost every time. No DUI-related case is unwinnable, so there is always hope. Once you reach out to a DUI defense attorney, they will:
- Examine whether the law enforcement officers arrested you lawfully and whether they violated any of your legal rights.
- Investigate your situation and find any weaknesses in the prosecution's evidence.
- Review the results of the blood, urine, or breath test you took to determine if they are reliable.
- Reconstruct the road accident with the help of accident reconstruction experts to determine who was actually to blame.
- Analyze the injuries the victim sustained and whether they warrant a felony charge.
As earlier implied, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution for a conviction to occur. It is not sufficient for the D.A to prove you were intoxicated and that another person was injured. They must also prove that you violated a particular law or acted negligently, which led to the collision. If they do not prove so, or if your lawyer can make any of your proof be thrown out, you may win your case. Alternatively, your attorney could compel them to offer you a deal, so you receive lenient punishment.
Defending Against VC 23153 Violation
DUI defense attorneys in California apply several legal defense strategies to assist defendants in fighting DUI-related charges, including DUI with injury. The most prevalent defenses these lawyers can argue are showing that an accused:
- Was not intoxicated.
- Did not hurt anyone.
- Did not commit an unlawful act or act negligently.
You Were Not Intoxicated
You can only be convicted of violating 23153 VC if you hurt someone else when driving a vehicle while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. Therefore, legal defense is for your lawyer to prove that you were not drunk, on drugs, or otherwise impaired when driving.
When a crash happens, and the law enforcement officers suspect you are intoxicated, they will be looking for intoxication signs. Common physical intoxication signs include watery or red eyes, a flushed face, a strong alcoholic odor, and an unsteady gait.
Your physical appearance will significantly contribute to the DUI investigation. With help from your lawyer, you can argue that the intoxication signs the police noticed were not because of intoxication but because of fatigue, irritation, allergies, or cold. You could assert that what the law enforcement officers saw as an alcoholic odor was a smell of some other substance found in non-alcoholic substances such as mouthwash.
However, this defense may be restricted if you fail a chemical or breath test.
Nobody Was Hurt During the Accident
Remember that the judge can only find you guilty of violating VC 23153 if you drive while intoxicated and hurt someone else. This means, as a defense, your lawyer can show that nobody was hurt in your DUI case. However, even if no one sustained an injury, you might still be convicted of other DUI offenses, like VC 23152(a) DUI or VC 23152(b) DUI with a BAC of .08% or higher.
You Did not Commit an Unlawful Act or Act Negligently.
Also, remember that the judge cannot convict you of DUI causing injury unless you acted negligently or committed a particular illegal act. Thus, your lawyer can help you challenge your VC 23153 violation charges by showing that you did not neglect to perform any legal duty.
VC 23153 charges are often lowered to VC 23152 charges since, most of the time, it is hard for the prosecutor to prove the defendant's negligence made the other person sustain an injury rather than the supposed fact that the defendant was merely intoxicated.
You Did Not Cause the Physical Harm to the Victim
Based on your case facts, your lawyer can argue that you were not directly liable for the physical harm inflicted upon the victim, even if you were driving while intoxicated. This means that the victim was injured, but it was not your fault that they were. It could be the poor weather conditions were liable for causing the crash, which is not an act of negligence on your side. By your lawyer arguing this defense, they may have your charges lowered to VC 23152 DUI.
Your BAC Was not .08%
Also, based on your case facts, your attorney may be capable of challenging the accuracy of your chemical tests using various strategies that prove the unreliability of the tests you took. For instance, it is not uncommon to experience errors with DUI blood tests. Experienced DUI Lawyers frequently use these errors to prove improper storage of your blood sample or blood contamination.
The Blood Split Order Defense
If you underwent blood testing instead of urine or breath testing, your attorney could obtain a blood split order from the court to allow for independent testing of your blood sample by their hired defense expert chemist.
The independent blood testing might reveal a lower BAC than the government laboratory technicians recorded.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Your attorney may assert that your initial contact with the police violated your legal right against unreasonable search and seizure or that the police acquired the incriminating proof in violation of your right to an attorney or your Miranda rights.
Residual Mouth Alcohol
The only sure way to establish intoxication is by looking at your BAC readings. Should the police determine that your blood alcohol concentration was .08% or more at the time of the accident, they will deduce the crash occurred because of intoxication.
California law requires the arresting officer to observe the defendant for fifteen minutes nonstop before they can administer the test. Additionally, the law necessitates that the arresting officer ensures that the defendant does not burp, regurgitate, or belch before taking the test to prevent interference by residual mouth alcohol. The officer must test deep lung air to ensure the results are accurate.
Should the officer fail to do all or any of these in your case, they may obtain false BAC results. Your lawyer can fight your charges by arguing the officer neglected to do the required fifteen-minute observation or other guidelines, meaning the results they obtained are false.
Considering the substantially different treatment of felony vs. misdemeanor VC 23153 violations, prefiling intervention before the prosecutor formally files the case is vital. Ultimately, the filing prosecutor has the power to file a DUI with injury case either as a misdemeanor or felony.
If you hire a DUI defense lawyer early enough into the court process, they can meet with the filing prosecutor and the police to negotiate for a misdemeanor instead of a felony case filing.
In DUI causing injury cases, a pre-filing intervention will center on the mitigating elements surrounding the accused, including background character, accomplishments, reputation, and collateral repercussions if convicted of a felony.
Additionally, efforts at rehab, such as showing remorse and alcohol treatment, among others, and facts surrounding the criminal conduct, like the relatively minor nature of the supposed injuries and payment of restitution upfront, come into play.
In most cases, an aggressive prefiling intervention position achieved through collaboration between the defendant, defense counsel, and the defendant's family convinces the prosecuting attorney to go ahead and file a misdemeanor instead of a felony case. This may apply even in cases where the critical elements of the crime— DUI of alcohol and injuries suffered by a third party— are not factually contested.
Crimes Related to VC 23153 Violation
Various crimes are related to DUI causing injury because they share certain elements. Therefore, the prosecution can charge you with another crime instead of or alongside DUI with injury. These crimes include:
VC 20001, Felony Hit and Run Involving Death or Injury
Under VC 20001, it is a crime to flee a scene of an auto crash in which someone else has died or been injured. Keep in mind that unlike VC 23153 DUI with injury violation, you can be charged with a crime even if you were not intoxicated with drugs or alcohol.
PC 263a, Child Endangerment
Child endangerment under PC 273a is the crime where a person willfully exposes a minor below eighteen years to unjustifiable danger, suffering, or pain. As with DUI causing injury, child endangerment is either a felony or misdemeanor based on the case facts.
PC 191.5, Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated
You commit vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in violation of 191.5 PC when you are a driver and you:
- Cause a crash in which someone dies, and
- Do so when intoxicated with drugs, alcohol, or both and driving negligently.
Unlike VC 23153 violations, violating PC 191.5 is always a felony. Possible penalties include ten years of prison sentence.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Attorney Near Me
A DUI with injury is a severe crime under California statute. Before and after the prosecution files charges, expert legal representation is essential to maximize your chances of the best outcome, including a charge dismissal or reduction. If you have been arrested or charged with DUI causing injury in Pasadena, contact our skilled DUI defense attorneys at Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm as soon as possible for help. Our attorneys have decades of experience and will fight aggressively to achieve the most favorable results for your case. Call us at 626-628-0564 for assistance and expert legal advice.