Drunk driving is a severe offense in California. It is punished by a lengthy prison time and a hefty fine for those found guilty. A conviction for DUI could also affect your driving privilege. The presence of aggravating factors in your DUI case, like an injury, will make your case even graver. It helps to understand what your charges entail and how a competent criminal attorney can help you attain a fair outcome of your case. If you need legal help, contact Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. Our skilled criminal lawyers will help you plan a solid defense to cause the court to reduce or dismiss your charges.
California DUI Laws — Overview
California is among the states with the gravest DUI laws in the country. State laws make it illegal for anyone to drive a car while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. A DUI charge is serious, attracting heavy penalties upon conviction. You will likely spend time in jail, pay a hefty fine, or lose your driving license temporarily or permanently after sentencing. Even with the stringent DUI laws in place, California still registers a high number of DUI cases every year. Thus, law enforcement officers are always on the lookout, ready to arrest you if they suspect you of DUI.
The police make DUI arrests in California with probable cause. For instance, if you have committed a traffic infraction like speeding, the police will stop and question you. If they suspect you of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, an officer will conduct some preliminary tests and ask you a few more questions to study your behavior and response. From their observation, you could be arrested and charged with DUI, after which you will undergo DUI testing to determine your Blood-Alcohol concentration.
You face two separate DUI charges in California. The first is the drunk driving offense for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The police do not need a DUI test result to charge you with DUI under this law. How you drive your car could automatically indicate intoxication. The second charge will come after your BAC results are out. If your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you will face the second DUI charge.
Drunk driving is the leading cause of vehicle accidents in California and other parts of the world. That is why DUI laws are stringent. You will likely face serious charges after a DUI arrest, punishable by time in jail, a hefty fine, and the likelihood of losing your driver’s license temporarily or permanently.
California DUI is a priorable offense. The consequences for a DUI conviction are determined by the number of previous DUI convictions in your criminal record. The first three charges for DUI are misdemeanors. The fourth DUI charge within ten years is a felony. Penalties for a felony DUI charge are graver and could include prison time and designation as a habitual offender.
It helps to work alongside a competent criminal attorney if you face DUI charges in California. Your attorney will fight your charges in court to compel the judge to dismiss or reduce them.
DUI Causing Injury
As previously mentioned, aggravating factors will make your DUI charge graver and could result in additional penalties upon conviction. Aggravating factors are circumstances that could increase the culpability or severity of a criminal act. Causing an accident where a person sustained injuries counts as an aggravating factor to your DUI charge. It makes your charges more severe and will lead to additional penalties than what you would receive for an ordinary DUI conviction.
California DUI with injury is covered under California VC 23153. The offense is defined as operating a vehicle while under the effect of drugs or alcohol, causing a physical injury to another person due to your actions. The offense could be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on your criminal history and underlying circumstances.
The district attorney must prove these facts of the offense beyond reasonable doubts for the court to find you guilty as charged:
- You were operating a car at the time of your arrest
- The police determined that you were operating under the effects of drugs or alcohol
- While driving under the effect of drugs or alcohol, you acted with negligence or violated a particular law
- Your actions caused another person to sustain injuries
The underlying offense is DUI. Therefore, the district attorney must demonstrate that you were indeed operating a car under the influence. The prosecutor’s case will be based on the police findings during the preliminary screening and the DUI tests after your arrest. For instance, it could be you were driving dangerously on the road at the time, prompting the police to stop and question you. A DUI screening usually follows a probable cause. If the officers have sufficient reason to believe that you are driving under the influence, they will make an arrest and then take your breath or blood sample for BAC testing. It will provide irrefutable proof that you were indeed operating a car under the influence.
BAC testing is the ultimate means of obtaining evidence against a driver suspected of DUI. The standard BAC for every driver in the state must be below 0.08%. If your BAc results show a higher BAC than that, you will likely face severe DUI charges.
The police use different techniques to test BAC for drivers suspected of drunk driving. A breathalyzer is common, though sometimes a blood test is necessary. Blood tests provide absolute results and reveal whether the driver is under the effect of alcohol/drugs. A breathalyzer simply measures the amount of alcohol in your breath. Thus, it will not be sufficient to determine your level of intoxication if you were driving under the effect of drugs.
An arrest for DUI causing injury starts with an accident or situation in which another person is injured. The police must respond to an accident scene, gather evidence, and write a report. You will be questioned at the accident scene for the police to unravel what happened until the accident occurred. Police officers are well trained to study human behavior as they speak or question them. Therefore, if you were drunk or drugged driving, the officer at the accident scene will suspect it and quickly conduct preliminary testing for drunk driving.
Note that you can refuse to submit to preliminary testing for DUI. The police cannot force you or charge you for failing to submit to DUI testing. But if the officer suspects you of DUI, he/she will arrest you at the accident scene and take you to the station. You cannot refuse to submit to DUI testing after an arrest. You could face additional charges if you fail to cooperate with the officer.
If the DUI results show that you were indeed operating a vehicle under the effect of drugs or alcohol, you will face charges for DUI causing injury.
Penalties for a Sentence Under California VC 23153
DUI causing injury is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony in California, based on several factors, including your criminal history and severity of the injuries sustained by the victim. Your penalties will also depend on the judge and the circumstances of your case. The district attorney will consider the details of your offense and any other prior DUI convictions in your criminal record to determine whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. There are circumstances in which your charge automatically becomes a felony, for instance, if you already have three DUI convictions within ten years. Let us look at the penalties you will likely receive in various circumstances in greater detail:
Misdemeanor DUI Resulting in Injury
A misdemeanor charge is the least serious when compared to a felony charge. Thus, your penalties will not be as grave as those you would have received if facing felony charges. But, as previously mentioned, DUI is a severe offense in California. Therefore, a misdemeanor charge will still carry severe penalties upon conviction.
You could receive a misdemeanor conviction for DUI causing injury if it is your first DUI-related offense or a second one within ten years. However, the injuries sustained by the victim must be minimal. If convicted of a misdemeanor DUI resulting in injury, you will likely receive these penalties:
- Court fines of between $350 and $5,000
- Summary or misdemeanor probation for between three to five years
- Payment of restitution to all victims — It is the fine paid directly to the victims of an offense to enable them to obtain money for their medical needs and other needs necessitated by the crime.
- Possible license suspension by the DMV for between one and three years
- Jail time for a maximum of one year
You can negotiate for less severe penalties if an aggressive criminal attorney represents you in court.
Felony DUI Resulting in Injury
A felony is a more severe charge. Thus, you will likely receive graver penalties upon conviction. A third DUI offense with injury automatically becomes a felony in California. Subsequent DUI offenses within ten years will be charged as felonies, too. Also, any DUI offense that results in severe physical injuries or death automatically becomes a felony. Here are the penalties you will likely receive for a felony DUI resulting in injury:
- Monetary fines of between $1,000 and $5,000
- Possible suspension of your driver’s license for a maximum of five years by the DMV
- Prison time for two, three, or four years, and an additional three to six years if the victim sustained serious physical injuries
- Additional one year for everyone that sustained injuries as a result of your actions — The number of additional years, for this reason, is capped to three years at the maximum.
- You will be designated as a Habitual Traffic Offender in California for three years.
- A felony DUI causing injury is also a strike under the California Three-Strikes law. It means that this conviction will affect your subsequent felony convictions, causing you to face even more severe penalties than what is provided under the law.
Possible Legal Defenses Against California VC 23153 Charges
DUI causing injury is a severe offense that could leave you serving time behind bars, paying hefty fines, and facing other life-changing consequences like suspended driving privileges. A conviction will also leave you with a serious criminal record that could affect your life in various ways. For instance, obtaining suitable employment is a severe challenge for ex-convicts in the country today. That is why you need to fight your charges to avoid a conviction under California VC 23153. A competent criminal attorney will help you find avenues through which you can fight your charges for a reduction or dismissal.
Here are some of the strategies you can use to obtain a fair outcome for your case.
Fighting DUI Charges
The underlying offense for this charge is DUI, without which the charge will not hold. Thus, your attorney can try fighting your DUI charge to convince the court that you were not operating under the influence in the first place. Fortunately, you can use various strategies for this, including the following:
You Were Not Driving Under The Influence
Your attorney can try to weaken the prosecutor’s case against you to prove in court that you were not operating under the influence in the first place. For instance, it could be that you were tired, hence the reason for driving or walking erratically during the preliminary testing. It could also be that the ground you were walking on during the initial testing was uneven.
The BAC Results Were Inaccurate
BAC results from breathalyzers are sometimes inaccurate in determining the actual alcohol level in a person’s blood. If the officers only took a breath sample from you, you can use this defense to have the BAC results thrown out of court. For instance, if you had previously used an alcohol-based mouthwash, it could have triggered a positive reading on a breathalyzer, even if you did not have any alcohol in your blood.
Police conduct during and after an arrest is governed by law. Thus, you could cite police misconduct to have your charges dropped if you feel that the police did not act according to the guidelines provided. For instance, the arresting officer must not have asked you questions and recorded your statement before reading your Miranda rights. The officer must have made sure that you understood your right to remain silent and engage an attorney.
The Officer Did Not Have Probable Cause For Arrest
The law also requires the police to have probable cause for arresting a motorist for DUI. For instance, it could be that the officer noticed you were incoherent while talking or not walking straight. These are good signs to suspect a person for drunk driving. However, without probable cause for a DUI arrest, any evidence gathered against the motorist must be thrown out of court. If you believe that the officer did not have probable cause for arresting and charging you with DUI, you can use this strategy to fight your DUI charges.
Fighting the Accident and Resulting Injury
If the evidence gathered against you for drunk driving is irrefutable, you could try to fight the accident and resulting injuries. A skilled criminal attorney will know the strategies to use to have your accident part of the case dismissed. Then, you will not have to face severe penalties for causing another person’s injury.
For instance, your attorney can involve an independent accident expert to determine the actual cause of the accident and injuries the alleged victim sustained. The focus would be to prove in court that the accident in which the person suffered injuries was not your fault in the first place. An accident expert will reconstruct the accident scene to demonstrate the accident and the responsible party. He/she will consider other factors that could have contributed to the accident, including road conditions, the weather, and a fault in the vehicle. If that works, you will only be charged for DUI and not DUI causing injury.
Sadly, when the police are called to an accident scene and suspect that one of the persons involved was driving under the influence, they automatically assume that the person is to blame for the accident. The police then quickly write a report without understanding how the accident occurred and if the suspect is the cause. Retaining a competent criminal attorney will help you avoid facing serious charges for an accident that is not your fault.
California DUI Causing Injury and Related Offenses
California law has several offenses related to DUI causing injury. Some are prosecuted in place of VC 23153, while the others are prosecuted together with it. Let us look at the most common of these offenses:
Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
This offense is covered under California PC 191.5. The law makes it unlawful for anyone to engage in other negligence resulting in death while operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The offense is always a felony in California, attracting a prison term of four years.
The gravity of this offense depends on whether the offender acted with ordinary negligence or gross negligence. The prosecutor will study the circumstances of the case to determine the actual charges.
For instance, a motorist is driving with a high BAC and is constantly on her phone, sending text messages to her girlfriend. A few minutes later, she unintentionally hits a biker who loses his life on the spot.
In this case, the prosecutor will prove that the motorist was drunk or drugged driving and was engaging in the act of negligence that resulted in an accident in which a person died.
You could be convicted under this law if the prosecutor can prove these elements beyond reasonable doubts:
- You were operating a car while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol
- In that state, you committed another infraction, misdemeanor, or a lawful act that could have put another person at risk of death.
- You committed the act with ordinary or gross negligence
- Your negligent conduct caused another person to lose their life
Hit and Run Causing Injury or Death
The law against hit and run causing injury is under California VC 20001. The offense occurs when a person leaves an accident scene after another person has sustained an injury or lost their life. This law requires drivers involved in accidents in which other people are injured or killed to stop their vehicle at the scene, offer help and call the police. The driver must only leave the accident scene after the police clear them.
You could face charges under California VC 20001 if you accidentally hit a pedestrian, then speed off without offering them help or calling the police. Note that this offense does not necessarily require you to be operating under the influence.
California hit and run causing injury or death is a wobbler offense. It means that the prosecutor can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.
As a misdemeanor, it attracts a maximum jail sentence of one year, and as a felony, you could face up to four years of prison time upon conviction. The judge can decide to send you on probation in the place of jail or prison time, whereby you will serve part or your entire time in the community.
Find a Competent Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
A criminal charge for DUI causing injury in Riverside is severe and could result in severe penalties upon conviction. But, you could obtain a fair outcome if you engage the assistance of a competent criminal attorney. Your attorney will study the details of your case, advise you on your options and help you plan a strong defense against your charges. We offer competent legal services at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm to help you obtain a fair outcome of your case. Our skilled and experienced attorneys are always ready to offer help, advice, and support during the most challenging period of your life. Call us at 951-946-6366, and let us study your case for better decision-making.