Getting convicted of a DUI in California, no matter the circumstances, will have a major impact on your life. However, if you are accused of injuring another person while driving under the influence, the penalties you face are more severe.
The level of severity you face depends on whether you’re facing a felony or misdemeanor DUI with Injury charge. Even if the prosecution initially wants to pursue a felony charge, it is possible to have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor. However, doing so can be incredibly difficult without the right tools. If you want help with your DUI charge, our highly experienced lawyers are available for a free consultation about your case. Simply call us at (310)971-9045 or use the forms available on this website to schedule your initial consultation.
DUI with Injury
If you’re charged with a DUI with Injury, you are subject to California’s Vehicle Code 23153. Prosecutors do not need to prove any particular section of the Vehicle Code was violated in order to get a conviction. They must simply show that you were operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08%.
When pursuing a DUI case that resulted in an injury to a person or injuries to multiple people, prosecutors may have a choice to pursue either a lesser misdemeanor charge or a more severe felony charge.
Determining Misdemeanor or Felony
As a “wobbler” charge, a prosecutor must way several factors when considering pursuing a misdemeanor or felony charge against someone accused of a DUI that resulted in an injury. These factors include:
- Your DUI history
- The severity of the injuries sustained in the incident
Your DUI History
One of the primary considerations a prosecutor will make in determining what level of charge to seek against you is your history with DUI charges. Specifically, the prosecutor will be looking to see if you:
- Have any three previous DUIs, even if they haven’t resulted in an injury
- Have two previous DUIs that resulted in injuries
If you satisfy either of these two criteria, the prosecutor does not have the discretion to pursue a lesser charge. California law requires prosecutors to pursue felony charges if you meet either of these criteria.
If there were injuries in this incident and you had two previous DUIs that did not have involve any injuries to a person, prosecutors can still pursue a felony charge but are not required to do so. This will depend heavily on the level of injuries suffered as a result of your driving.
The Severity of the Injuries
Even without a prior DUI record, prosecutors will pursue a felony DUI with Injury charge if the injuries suffered are severe enough. Under California law, to meet the standard to charge an individual with a felony DUI with Injury the jury must decide if:
- The injury was enough to put the person’s life in danger
- The person suffered a sufficiently long-term disability from the accident
- The accident resulted in a permanent disfigurement
- The damage caused resulted in the loss of a body part or organ
Unlike your DUI history, there is more wiggle room for how a charge can be pursued when interpreting the severity of an injury. Often, there is a subjective component to this evaluation. Typically, individuals rely on their DUI defense lawyers to evaluate the medical records and negotiate with the prosecutor on behalf of their client. If it doubtful a prosecutor can get a conviction at the felony level because of a strong defense against the severity claim, the charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor.
A DUI Lawyer Can Help Reduce Your DUI Charges
If a prosecutor has the choice between a felony and a misdemeanor DUI with injury charge, he or she may be inclined to pursue the harsher punishment. This means a minimum of three years in state prison, as opposed to a minimum sentence of one year in a local jail for the misdemeanor charge.
Getting a skilled DUI lawyer on your side may be your best chance at reducing a felony DUI with injury charge to a misdemeanor. Your ability to get the reduction depends on the unique circumstances of your case and how quickly you start building a proper defense.