A DUI involving a collision can have dramatically different consequences than a DUI alone. DUI collisions frequently involve injuries and property damage, which raise the stakes of the DUI offense. It's important to take the right steps after a DUI collision to minimize the potential consequences. Because you are under certain legal obligations after an auto accident, you could face additional criminal charges if you fail to fulfill them. Let's take a look at the immediate steps you should take after a DUI collision.
Report the Accident
Don't flee the scene. Pull your car over and assist those injured. You'd be surprised how many people drive away from an accident to avoid the harsh consequences, but it often only leads to more criminal charges. Report the accident to the police or state patrol immediately after securing the scene of the accident. Hit and run is a criminal charge in California and could come with significant penalties if you seriously injured or killed someone. You don't have to admit fault to report the accident. You must also report the incident to the DMV within ten days if anyone was injured or if property damage exceeds $1,000.
Talk to Witnesses
You won't just face an insurance claim if you cause a DUI collision; you can face criminal charges as well. This means you will potentially have two court cases, and witnesses can help in both cases. Approach witnesses and ask for their name and contact information. Get a statement from them if you can or have your attorney contact them after the incident.
Don't Provide a Statement
When police arrive on the scene, they may ask for a statement. Remember, you have a right to remain silent when interrogated. If you refuse to provide a statement about what happened, you'll likely be arrested if the officer has reason to believe you were intoxicated. That's OK. It's better to be arrested and not provide a statement than say too much, in which case you'll likely be arrested anyway. Don't talk to the police about what happened until you speak with an attorney. This can be difficult to do following a DUI collision, ask the police will have to collect information for DMV and insurance claim purposes, but it's vital you remain silent until you speak with an attorney.
Think Twice Before You Complete a Field Sobriety Test
Police routinely administer standardized field sobriety tests at a DUI stop and may ask you to complete one when responding to a DUI collision. Bear in mind that following an accident, your balance and coordination is likely to be impaired from the impact alone. The field sobriety tests help officers assess your balance and coordination, so there is a chance you will “fail” such a test because you've been in a collision. You have a right to refuse to take a field sobriety test, and there is no legal consequence if you do. Again, this doesn't mean you won't be arrested, but it does limit the evidence the police can collect.
Consider the Consequences of Refusing a BAC Test
Under California's implied consent law, you face an automatic license suspension if you refuse a breath or blood BAC (blood alcohol concentration) test, also called a chemical test. Moreover, police can potentially obtain a warrant and force a blood draw if you caused an accident and refused to submit to a BAC test. It's best to try to speak with an attorney before this happens, but keep these potential consequences in mind when asked to submit to a breath or blood test.
Call an Attorney!
In reality, this should be step one, but you must fulfill your legal obligations and should secure any witnesses before you do anything else. Call a California DUI defense attorney as soon as possible after a DUI collision. An attorney can walk you through your rights and responsibilities and explain what will happen next. If you involve an attorney early on in your case, he or she will have a much better chance of doing “damage control,” which is crucial following a DUI collision. It's also important to discuss the potential penalties you could face for a conviction. If you are found guilty of DUI, and at fault for the collision, the court will consider the accident as an “enhancement.” This means you will face greater penalties than you would have had you not caused the accident. Specifically, you could face charges of DUI causing injury or even vehicular manslaughter if you killed anyone. Both of these charges are serious and should be handled by an attorney.
If you are facing DUI charges and a license suspension, we can help you with your defense. California attorney Christopher Martens knows California driving crime 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.