Getting a DUI in California comes with harsh penalties, even if there was no accident. However, getting charged with a DUI after an accident is likely to increase the penalties you face by a substantial margin. The more severe the accident or the injuries it caused, the greater the trouble you are going to be facing.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI after an accident in Los Angeles, contact a Los Angeles DUI attorney today. You have 10 days from the date of the arrest to contest the DMV’s automatic suspension and you will want to have as much time as possible to build the best defense you can muster. Our drunk driving accident attorneys offer free consultations.
At the Scene of the Accident
When the police arrive at the scene, they will begin interviewing eyewitnesses and doing welfare checks on the people involved in the accident. As part of their welfare checks, they are likely to notice the signs if you are under the influence of alcohol. Once that happens, they’re going to want to perform some tests to see if you are drunk or have been drinking.
Testing for Alcohol
Officers at the scene of the accident will test for alcohol in one of two ways:
- Alcohol Screening Test – They will ask you to take a breathalyzer. So long as you haven’t been arrested, aren’t on DUI probation, or not under the age of 21, it is not a crime to refuse a breathalyzer.
- Field Sobriety Test – The officers will ask you to perform tasks that they believe will show that you’re under the effects of alcohol or drugs. Like the breathalyzer, you can refuse to take a field sobriety test so long as you meet the proper conditions.
Even if you refuse the officer’s tests, you can be arrested for DUI. Once you’ve been arrested, you can face an additional penalty for refusing a breathalyzer or field sobriety test on top of any other penalties you may face from the DUI or other traffic infractions. The officer may also request a blood or urine test, which you will likely also have to comply with if it is requested of you.
Penalties for DUI Involving an Accident
In general, a prosecutor will seek harsher penalties for a DUI involving an accident than a DUI where there was no accident involved. For example, the prosecutor may request that you be sentenced to the full six months in jail for a DUI rather than a minimum of two days.
However, under California law, you may also be charged under different statutes if the accident resulted in any injuries. These DUI sentence enhancements mean you will face additional penalties on top of those from a regular DUI charge. Possible charges include:
- Misdemeanor DUI Causing an Injury – For accidents involving minor injuries to at least one person in your vehicle or another person’s vehicle. You will receive at least five days in prison for this charge, and your license will be suspended for no less than a full year.
- Felony DUI Causing an Injury – For accidents in which someone received substantial damage as part of the accident. You can receive up to five years in state prison for each person who was seriously injured in the accident.
- Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated – For accidents in which a person is killed. This one has several variations, which can result in up to six years of prison time.
In addition, you face additional liability for any injuries caused in a DUI accident. On top of the normal liability to pay for an injured person’s medical bills and lost wages, they may also seek punitive damages under California legislation. These punitive damages will be charged against you and not your insurance company, meaning you can be facing thousands of dollars in additional costs on top of those you receive from the state.
Build a Better Defense
In order to be charged with the sentence enhancers for a DUI involving an accident, the prosecutor must be able to prove that you were both over the legal BAC limit of 0.08% and your actions were the reason for the accidents and injuries. If they can’t prove that, you will likely face much less severe charges.
Prosecutors want to be able to charge you with the harshest penalties possible, even if the facts don’t fully support those charges. Your best bet is to have a skilled DUI attorney who can present the facts of the case fairly. There are many factors that a prosecutor may overlook, including weather conditions or even which driver was actually responsible for the accident.
We can connect you with an experienced DUI lawyer who can help you build the best defense possible. Simply use the form on the right of this page to contact us. Reach out today!