When it comes to a felony DUI, under California Vehicle Code 23153(a), there are certain things that the prosecutors must prove in order to sustain a charge against somebody in one of the San Fernando Valley Courts.
The reason these elements are so important is two-fold. No. 1, this is what the prosecutors have to prove. If they can’t prove it, then the person is not guilty. No. 2, this is a serious crime.
If you get convicted of this, you can pretty much assure yourself of jail time or even prison time when it comes to a felony DUI because that typically means that someone has been injured and the injury is probably a serious injury, and therefore, the prosecutors are going to be looking to punish someone in a very serious manner.
So, in order for a defendant to be convicted of a felony DUI, certain elements need to be proved. I’d like to go over those here, so you have a feel for it. The reason I do it is because whenever a case goes to trial, that’s what the jury is going to get. They’re going to get these elements.
The judge is going to ready it to them. They’re going to be able to take it back when they go back to deliberate to decide whether a person is innocent or guilty. So why wouldn’t we – if we’re deciding to possibly fight a felony DUI case in San Fernando or Van Nuys, CA – why wouldn’t we look at the jury instructions and figure out whether or not they can actually prove the case against you. See related: California Criminal Jury Instructions 2100 – Driving Under the Influence Causing Injury.
Causing Injury While Driving Under the Influence
So, pretty much the judge is going to be telling the jury the defendant is charge with whatever count it is with causing injury to another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both.
In order to prove this crime, the people – meaning the prosecutors – are going to have to prove no. 1, that the defendant drove or operated a motor vehicle. Now, you wouldn’t think that that would be too difficult to prove, but in some of these cases when the police come upon somebody, their car is stopped.
They’re not driving the vehicle. So, a lot of times that’s one of the potential defenses – no, I wasn’t driving a vehicle. I didn’t violate anything. I was parked. Now of course, the police can sometimes up-end this by saying yeah, we saw he was parked but we watched him drive over there.
If they can show that, then obviously they would be able to get around this. Another area where I see this come up is people get so drunk they pass out in the middle of the road and they say, well I wasn’t driving.
If you’re in the middle of the road that counts as driving too and they’ll be giving a certain jury instruction in order to cover that as well. But if you’re in a parked good legal parking spot – even if your keys are in the motor – people get all confused about that.
If you’re parked and you’re not moving, and the police could not prove when you were driving, they’re probably not going to be able to get you for a DUI because this first element can’t be met. This is obviously something you’re gong to want to sit down with an experienced DUI attorney who has handled felony DUI cases and had success.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Element no. 2 is that when you were driving the vehicle that you were under the influence of some sort of a drug or alcohol. This is another one that’s not that easy to prove because it has to be at the time you were driving the vehicle that you were under the influence.
So, if they catch you 2,3,4,5 hours later, the question becomes how are they going to bring an expert in to be able to extrapolate backwards to be able to say okay, if he was a .20 for example at 7:00 p.m. at night, what was he at 2:00 in the afternoon? How are they going to figure that out?
It’s a scientific formula, but a lot of that stuff is voodoo science and these guys are just coming and saying a bunch of stuff that can be attacked and chewed up by a good criminal defense attorney. So, actually when you drove the vehicle and when you were impaired is crucial. That’s what element 2 is all about and it’s definitely something that the prosecutors have to prove.
Failing to Use Reasonable Care
Element no. 3 is while driving or operating the motor vehicle being under the influence, the defendant also committed an illegal act or neglected to perform some sort of a duty. So, this is another requirement that’s going to have to be proved according to the jury instructions.
If the prosecutors cannot prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt, then the case is going to be dismissed, you’re going to be found not guilty.
Illegal Act Caused Bodily Injury
Element no. 4 – the defendant’s illegal act caused some sort of bodily injury. That means that you were driving recklessly, you were speeding, and whatever you did that was illegal, that’s what caused the injury.
This is a huge issue in felony DUI’s. I fight these cases all the time. I’ve been dealing with it for the last twenty-five years. A lot of times in these actions you can’t tell who caused the injury.
So, if you can’t tell who caused the injury, you’re not going to be able to get the person for a felony DUI. If someone is driving along and they smash into the back of another car because they’re not paying attention and they get horribly hurt, and the car that they smashed into, that person is drunk, that doesn’t mean that the person that’s drunk that got rear-ended is now responsible for a felony DUI.
You actually have to be the cause of the DUI. So, if you have a case where you think cause is at issue when it comes to a felony DUI in LA, you have to get in front of somebody like me who has been doing this a long time and we have to sit down and get down to the nitty-gritty and figure out whether this element of the jury instructions can be up-ended, because if it can, then we’re in good shape and we can get this case dismissed.
Call a San Fernando Valley DUI Lawyer
When it comes to felony DUI’s in San Fernando Valley, there’s more than meets the eye here. There’s a lot of stuff going on and you’re going to need a good attorney because if someone got seriously injured and you were the cause of that injury, the prosecutors are not just going to be looking to put you in jail, they may be looking to put you in prison.
So, you need somebody who has done this before, who knows how to handle these cases. If you cause a bad-enough injury, they can assert a GBI allegation against you and you’re now looking at a strike on your record for the rest of your life.
That’s another big issue when it comes to these cases, and that’s that you actually have to cause a serious injury. So, then the question becomes what is a serious injury? A soft tissue injury is not a serious injury. Someone’s neck hurts, their back hurts – that’s not enough.
You have to do something that really causes some damage – broken bones, a laceration that’s a permanent scar, some sort of a bad dislocation – so get in front of an attorney. If it’s me, I have you sit down, and we go over everything. At the Hedding Law Firm, we figure out exactly what the bests strategy is and then we put that strategy to work to protect you, your rights, your freedom and your reputation.
Categorised in: Criminal Defense