Here’s What You Need to Know
In California, if your DUI caused an injury to anyone other than yourself, you could be charged with Vehicle Code 23153, “Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Drugs Causing Injury.” There are two different versions of this law, 23153(a) and 23153(b). The difference is:
- VC 23153(a) is used when you had some drugs or alcohol in your system, but not necessarily enough to be over the “legal limit,” and it you were acting in a way that showed that either your physical or mental abilities (or both) were impaired.
- VC 23153(b) is used when you may or may not have been acting impaired, but you had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more—in other words, you were over the “legal limit.”
This means that you can be charged and convicted of DUI Causing Injury even if your BAC was less than the limit of .08%.
Additionally, VC 23153 (either version) can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Both are criminal offenses, but felony DUI charges carry much higher penalties.
When is DUI Causing Injury a felony?
There are several circumstances where DUI Causing Injury will be charged as a felony. These include:
- It is your third DUI charge involving injuries to others. In this case, it is automatically treated as a felony charge.
- It is your fourth DUI charge ever, regardless of whether previous ones involved injuries. This is also automatically treated as a felony.
- It’s your third DUI charge, and the previous charges did not involve injuries. In this case it could be a felony depending on the details of the previous cases and how severe the injuries are in the current case.
- Any DUI causing injury can be charges as a felony if the injuries are severe.
This last point means that you could be charged with a felony even if it’s your first DUI. This is based entirely on how serious the injuries are. “Serious” injuries from a legal perspective include broken bones, internal damage and disabilities as well as severe conditions like brain injury or loss of a limb.
What are the penalties for DUI Causing Injury?
It depends on whether it’s charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Penalties for misdemeanor DUI Causing Injury include:
- 5 days to 1 year in county jail
- A fine of up to $2000
- 1 to 3 years’ license suspension
- 3 to 30 months in DUI school
- 3-5 years probation
- You must pay restitution to the victim for their injuries
Penalties for felony DUI Causing Injury are much more severe, and include:
- 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison
- An extra 1 year per victim for each victim who suffered any injury
- An extra 3-6 years per victim for each victim who suffered a severe injury (“great bodily injury”)
- A fine of up to $5,000 plus thousands in other costs
- 3 years as a habitual traffic offender
- Losing your drivers license for 5 years
- 18 to 30 months of DUI school
- Possible alcohol or drug addiction treatment
- You must pay restitution to the victim for their injuries
Additionally, a felony conviction will mean you carry the status of a felon, which can affect your rights, your ability to apply for jobs, housing, and other aspects of your life.
Can I downgrade a felony DUI Causing Injury to a misdemeanor?
It depends. There are cases when, because of your history or other factors, the prosecutor must treat your charge as a felony. There are other cases where they can choose a felony or misdemeanor charge based on how serious the injuries were. If the prosecutor has a choice in which charge to use, then there is room to potentially strike a deal and get it lowered to a misdemeanor.
What are my chances of winning if I’m charged with DUI Causing Injury?
DUI defense lawyers win these cases all the time. There is no DUI case that is unwinnable—there is always hope. When you contact a DUI lawyer, they will:
- Investigate your case and look for weaknesses in the evidence against you
- Assess whether police performed the arrest legally, and whether any of your rights were violated
- Review the breath test, blood test or urine test to see if the results are reliable
- Look at the injuries caused to the other party and whether a felony charge is really warranted
- Reconstruct the accident to see who was really at fault
The prosecutor faces a difficult burden of proof to convict you of VC 23153. It’s not enough to show that you were under the influence and that someone got injured. They have to show that you broke some other law (such as running a stop sign) or otherwise acted carelessly, and that this led to the accident. If they cannot prove this, or if any of the evidence can be thrown out, you could win your case. Alternately, your lawyer could force them to offer you a deal so that you can move on with your life.
What is restitution? How much do I have to pay?
Restitution is money you pay to the victim(s) to make up for the cost of their injuries. Legally, it is meant to “make whole” their losses, so that they walk away without having lost a cent from the accident. When hospital bills are factored in, it can be extremely expensive—anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to $200,000 or more. Your liability insurance may pay some or all of this amount, but if the amount is too great you will have to pay the rest out of pocket.
However, restitution can be negotiated. Many victims will inflate the true expenses or include expenses that are not directly related to the injury. Your defense lawyer has a chance to review the expenses they claim they have and dispute the ones that are excessive. Having a good lawyer at this stage can make the difference between going bankrupt and having your insurance pay for the entire thing.
Even if you are convicted of DUI Causing Injury, you could walk away without debt.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.