DUI Causing Injuries - Vehicle Code 23153 VC

Getting a DUI in California carries harsh penalties without a car accident. However, your penalties are more severe if driving under the influence after an accident.

Suppose someone sustained serious injuries from the accident. In that case, you should expect even more significant punishment.

DUI Accident in California

California Vehicle Code 23153 VC is the statute that defines DUI-causing injury as a “wobbler” that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony.

If you were charged with a DUI after an accident in Los Angeles, contact our DUI lawyers to review the details and legal options. You have ten days from the date of the arrest to challenge the DMV’s automatic driver's license suspension.

When police officers arrive at the scene of the accident, they will first check the well-being of everyone involved to see if they need medical treatment. During this routine process, they also look for signs of being under the influence.

This includes slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, and unsteady balance, among others. If the police believe you are intoxicated, they will ask you to perform some tests to see if you are drunk, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, where they will tell you to follow the movement of their pen with your eyes without moving your head.

Police officers at the scene of the accident will also test for alcohol and intoxication in different ways:

  • Alcohol screening test using a preliminary alcohol screening device (PAS), which is essentially a hand-held breathalyzer machine commonly used by police on the scene of a DUI arrest;
  • Field sobriety test where police will ask you to perform specific tasks that typically show that you are under the effects of alcohol or drugs, such as the one-leg balance, walk-the-line, finger-to-nose, and the alphabet tests.

Suppose you refuse the officer's tests. In that case, you can still be arrested for DUI and will face additional penalties for refusing a breathalyzer, blood test, or field sobriety test.

What Are the Penalties?

DUIs are undoubtedly serious enough in California, but when you add in an accident, you're potentially facing jail or prison time depending on the extent of the accident and the damages and injuries to any parties to the accident, whether they be pedestrians or people in other vehicles.

If you hurt somebody in another vehicle, you could be facing a felony DUI, which ranges from a:

  • minimum of 90 days in jail and up to 3 years in prison;
  • great bodily injuries add three years, making it a strike, and you will face up to 6 years in prison;

If it's your first offense, and you're involved in an accident, and it's one of those soft tissue accidents, and you had a license and insurance, we can often keep you out of jail.

Penalties for DUI Involving an Accident in California

However, that puts you on the cusp of jail right off the top should you be involved in a DUI or an accident.

So that's one of the harmful factors prosecutors look at when assessing what to do in these DUI cases. 

You're always better off if you can avoid an accident.  If you have one, you've got to have insurance.

If the accident is your fault, we've got to make sure that the other party is compensated because you'll also be facing restitution for any damages to any property, whether vehicles or other property and any medical bills that the other party might have.

You're not facing pain and suffering when it comes to a criminal case for the other party, but they could sue you civilly, which would be a parallel action that could be instituted against you.

What Are Sentencing Enhancements?

DUI sentence enhancements mean you will face additional penalties on top of the standard DUI charge, such as the following:

  • Misdemeanor DUI causing injury involves minor injuries to someone in your vehicle or another person's car. You will face at least five days in jail for this charge and a one-year driver's license suspension.
  • Felony DUI causing injury involves accidents where someone sustained serious injuries. You will face up to five years in state prison for each person who was seriously injured.
  • Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated involves accidents where someone is killed. You will face up to six years in state prison.

Further, you face additional liabilities for any injuries caused in a DUI accident. You will have to pay for an injured person's medical bills and lost wages. The victim could also seek punitive damages under California law.

When Will a Judge Make You Post Bail?

In DUI cases, typically, the person is arrested and they're taken into custody.  Sometimes, they spend a few hours in jail before they're released with a citation.  Other times, they end up spending the night in jail.  It usually depends on the law enforcement agency that arrested you and also your blood alcohol level. 

The more dangerous you are because you have a high blood alcohol level, the more likely you are to be held in custody for a significant period because the police are concerned that if they let you go. You're still intoxicated; you could end up getting out, killing somebody in the car, and they would be held responsible because they let you go.

Once you end up with a court date, either because you posted bail or were given a citation to appear, believe it or not, it's still possible that you could go into custody. Some of the factors that will determine that, once again, fall under the umbrella of dangerousness:

Suppose you had a high blood alcohol level. In that case, the Judge will either take you into custody at your arraignment and make you post bail if you want to get out or, a lot of times, what I typically see, they will make somebody do AA meetings in exchange for them remaining out on their recognizance, which means without having you post bail. 

They could make you do one AA meeting per week.  They can make you do one AA meeting per day while you're out of custody, again, depending on the severity of whatever it is that you did.

You also want to consider whether you will be charged with a felony.  If you're booked for a misdemeanor but end up getting charged with a felony when you appear in court, you'll likely be taken into custody and have to post bail.

So, you want to get a reasonable attorney for a DUI case.  A lot of people don't realize that DUIs are, in fact, crimes, and they go on your criminal record obviously; judges and prosecutors take these cases very seriously, and you want to make sure that you go in prepared and know exactly what you need to do to defend yourself properly. That's where I come in.  I have a lot of experience dealing with the prosecutors and the judges and figuring out a game plan in your particular case to get the best result.

How Can You Prepare a Strong Defense?

To be charged and face sentence enhancements for DUI involving an accident, the prosecutor must prove that you were both over the legal BAC limit of 0.08% and responsible for the car accident and injuries.

Perhaps we can challenge the breath test results or allegations that you caused the accident. You need a skilled DUI attorney who can fairly present the facts of the case. Perhaps we can argue that the prosecutor overlooked many relevant factors, such as the weather conditions or that the other driver was responsible for the accident.

DUI cases in California are treated harshly compared to the rest of the nation.  I don't have the answer to that, other than the fact that we do have many drivers on the road and many deaths every year, and organizations like mother against drunk driving have taken up the cause and put pressure and legislature on the prosecutor's offices and judges across the great state of California. 

If you or a loved one is charged with a DUI and you've caused an injury or even a death, you want to get an attorney to represent you. I've handled every type of case under the sun. 

These lawyers who claim they specialize in DUIs are not prepared to deal with the harshness and prosecutors when it comes to these cases because sometimes you have to fight for your client, and these guys are not ready to do that.  All they do is work out deals all day.  They have no muscle to fight back and push back against the prosecutors.

I think you need a battle-tested attorney who knows how to fight.  DUIs are not complicated, especially when somebody gets hurt.  You'll grapple with the extent of the injury in a DUI injury case.  The injury is, the more likely the person is to go to prison or county jail and get other punishments against them. 

Soft tissue issues don't deserve someone going to jail or prison. But, when someone is just trying to claim an injury case where they can make some money, claiming their neck hurts, their back hurts, that really shouldn't be filed as a felony, and many times, the prosecutors will do it if the person squawks enough about their injuries.  So, that's where you need an attorney to fight for you. 

If there is an actual injury, broken bones, or other internal injuries, you have problems because the case will be filed as a felony. You're looking at a minimum of 90 days in jail, but you could get as high as three years.  That's when it starts to get scary.  Also, if the injury is bad enough, the prosecutors will file what's called a great bodily injury allegation, bringing all kinds of problems. 

Number 1, it's a strike, so you have a straight felony on your record for the rest of your life.  If you get jail or prison time, you'll serve 85% of the time in custody.  The last and final problem that comes with that is an additional three years tacked on the back of the felony DUI itself.  So, now you're facing six years in prison at 85%. 

The prosecutors don't necessarily have to give you that, but you sure as heck better have an attorney to try to fight to get that GBI allegation struck. Otherwise, you'll get saddled with it and all the problems that come with it.

If you need the best DUI defense attorney and you're involved in a DUI related to an injury, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.

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