A DUI With Complications
Many factors can affect a DUI case in California. One of the more significant ones is whether you caused an accident, injured someone, or damaged property while driving under the influence. If you caused a minor accident and no one was injured, you will probably only face a DUI charge, but don't expect to get a minimum sentence. When you cause an accident and injure someone while driving under the influence, you could be charged with a DUI causing bodily injury.
A Major Factor
So, how exactly does an accident affect your DUI charges? Let's start with the obvious; you could face harsher penalties. DUI causing bodily injury is a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecution can charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. The facts and circumstances of the incident and your prior criminal history will determine how you are charged. If charged as a misdemeanor, you will still face harsher penalties. Typically, this can mean longer probation, more jail time, larger fines, more time in an alcohol education program (i.e DUI school), and a longer license suspension. You can also face a penalty commonly seen in DUI causing bodily injury charges, which is victim restitution. The court can order you to pay the victim to compensate him or her for medical bills and other damages.
If charged as a felony, you could face two, three, or four years in a state prison. You will face one more year of prison time for each additional person injured, such a passenger. Expect significantly more prison time if you caused great bodily injury (e.g. brain damage, spinal injuries) and a “strike” on your record pursuant to California's three strikes law. Your license will be revoked for five years, and the DMV will change your status to habitual traffic offender for three years. You will also face steep fines and have to go to DUI school.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove
Under California VC 23153, it's illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and neglect any other legal duty or responsibility you have (i.e. to drive negligently) when that act is the proximate cause of another's injury. If you've ever been in an accident, you know it's not always clear who was at fault. In many cases, both drivers are partially responsible for the accident. In a civil case, this equates to more or less money concerning insurance settlements. In a criminal DUI case, however, you can expect to have a harder time arguing for partial fault. The prosecutor must prove you either acted negligently or broke an additional traffic code rule, such as running a stop sign or making an illegal turn. Your actions must be the cause of the other person's injuries. Arguing against this in a court of law can be difficult and is best handled by an attorney.
On top of your criminal case, the person you injured has the right to file a civil suit against you for damages. Now, civil and criminal proceedings are very different, but a criminal conviction can make winning your civil suit extremely difficult. Keep this in mind if you think you might be liable for damages, so you can make an informed decision about how to handle your criminal case.
Facing DUI charges is stressful and even more so if you caused an accident and injured someone. But you don't have to face your charges alone. Speak with an experienced California DUI defense attorney about your case if you are facing DUI charges. An attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and advise you on how you might be charged and sentenced. The prosecution must prove several elements to convict you of a DUI with bodily injury. An attorney can determine what pieces of evidence will play a role in your case and help you take steps to defend yourself against your charges.
Are you facing DUI charges and concerned about jail? California attorney Christopher Martens knows California criminal defense and will help you fight for your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians fight their charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.