Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense. Your charges will likely be graver if you cause an accident while driving while intoxicated and someone suffers injuries in that accident. In that case, the prosecutor can file felony charges, punishable by a lengthy prison sentence and a hefty fine. A conviction for DUI causing injury will also result in other life-changing repercussions, including a damaging criminal record and being labeled as a habitual traffic offender. That is why you need adequate legal help after your arrest for DUI with injury in Santa Ana. Our team of skilled criminal defense lawyers at Darwish Law can protect your rights, streamline the complex legal process, and fight alongside you for a fair outcome for your case.
Legal Definition of DUI Causing Injury
Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited under the law. You can face misdemeanor or felony charges based on the circumstances of your case. If you cause an accident while high on drugs or alcohol and someone else is injured, you will face charges under VC 23153 for DUI causing an injury. There are two sections under this statute:
- VC 23153(a) applies if you have alcohol or drugs in the system but not more than the legal limit, though you are operating in a manner to indicate that the alcohol or drugs have impaired your mental or physical abilities to drive the vehicle.
- VC 23153(b) applies if you have or have not been acting as if the alcohol or drugs in your system have impaired your driving abilities, but the substances in your system are above the legal limit. For example, your test for BAC indicates that you had a 0.08% or higher alcohol limit in your system at the time of arrest.
That means that you can face charges under this statute even if the drugs or alcohol in your system are not at or beyond the legal limit.
Also, the prosecutor can file misdemeanor or felony charges against you based on the circumstances of your case.
But for the prosecutor to file charges under VC 23153 against you, your actions must satisfy these criteria:
- You must have been driving a vehicle while high on drugs and/or alcohol.
- While driving, you must have caused an accident in which another person, other than you, sustained an injury.
The prosecutor has four elements or facts of this offense to prove for the judge to find you guilty of DUI causing an injury. These elements are:
- You were driving a vehicle at the time of your arrest.
- You were under drug and/or alcohol influence.
- When operating while intoxicated, you committed another unlawful act or failed to perform a lawful one.
- Your criminal act or negligence in performing a legal action caused another person to sustain a bodily injury.
Let us look at some of these elements in more detail to understand this law even better:
Driving a vehicle
You can only commit a DUI that causes an injury if you operate a vehicle instead of sitting in a stationary car or being a passenger. The prosecutor must prove that the vehicle was in motion at the time and that you were behind the wheel.
Under the Influence
The prosecutor must also demonstrate that you were driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Driving while under the influence can mean one or more of the following:
- You violated VC 23152(a), whereby your mental and/or physical abilities to drive were impaired by drugs and/or alcohol.
- You violated VC 23152(b), whereby you operated with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more.
- You violated VC 23152(f), whereby you were driving a vehicle while high on drugs.
You are also considered to be under the influence if, due to taking drugs or consuming alcohol, your mental or physical capabilities are impaired to the point that you can no longer drive safely as a sober person would.
Committing an Unlawful Act or Failing to Perform a Legal Act
You are guilty under this statute if the following are true:
- You violated another statute or committed an unlawful act, like running the stop sign, or.
- You negligently failed to use reasonable care that was needed at the time, and so you could not prevent foreseeable injury to another person.
You could have been unable to exercise proper care if:
- You did something that a careful driver would not have done in that situation, or
- You failed to do what a cautious person would have done in that situation.
Example: Jimmy is impatient as he drives to meet his friend, Sam, who returned to the country yesterday. The traffic is heavy on the road, and Jimmy has had a few drinks at home before leaving. He overtakes carelessly, with total disregard for other motorists. It is not long before he crashes into an oncoming vehicle as he dangerously swerves to overtake a few more cars. The driver and passenger of the oncoming vehicle sustained minor injuries.
Jimmy is guilty of DUI causing an injury because of his careless acts on the road while driving while high on alcohol.
Possible Penalties for a Conviction under VC 23153
DUI causing an injury is a wobbler offense, meaning that the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor based on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.
If the prosecutor brings misdemeanor charges against you under this statute, you will likely receive the following penalties upon conviction:
- Misdemeanor or summary probation.
- One year in jail.
- A court fine of up to $5,000.
- Attending and completing a court-recommended DUI school.
- License suspension of three years.
- Paying restitution to the injured
On the other hand, if the prosecutor files felony charges against you under this law, you could receive the following penalties upon conviction:
- Four years in state prison
- A strike conviction on your criminal record under the Three Strike Law
- A maximum of $5,000 in court fines
- Attending and completing a court-ordered DUI school
- Being labeled a habitual traffic offender for at least three years
- Suspension of your license for at least five years
Probation is an alternative to a jail sentence. If the judge sends you on probation instead of jail, you can serve your sentence as you continue your life. But probation is usually longer than jail or prison terms. For example, misdemeanor probation can last from one to three years.
While on misdemeanor probation, you will be under the supervision of the court. You will return to the court periodically to update the judge on your progress. The judge will also give you a set of probation conditions you must abide by throughout your probation. For example, they could order you to stay out of trouble, require you to find a job, attend DUI school, and make periodic reports for the judge.
You must not violate any probation conditions given by the judge during sentencing. If you do so, the judge can revoke your probation and send you to jail for the required term.
The DUI School is a state program for drug/alcohol prevention and education recommended by criminal court judges and the DMV. If your sentence requires you to attend and complete a DUI school program, you must enroll in a court-recommended DUI school and remain there for the period necessary. People who run these programs must obtain a state license for their programs to be court-approved.
The length of time you will be in the program and how much money you will pay for the education will depend on the underlying DUI offense. If the court or DMV has suspended your license and the DUI school is far from your home, you could apply for a restricted license. The permit will limit the places where you can drive. But if you agree to install an IID system in your vehicle, the DMV can reinstate your license to enable you to continue driving.
But before the DMV issues you with a restricted license, they will require proof that you have enrolled in a court-recommended DUI school and evidence of financial responsibility.
Driver’s License Suspension
License suspension does not always occur automatically after a DUI arrest. When the police arrest you for a DUI-related offense, they confiscate your driver’s license and could give you an interim license to use for a maximum of thirty days. Ten days after your arrest, you must request a DMV hearing to defend your license. If that does not happen, you could lose your license for the period the DMV suspends driver’s licenses for the underlying offense.
If you request a DMV hearing and successfully defend your license, you could lose it to suspension if the criminal court finds you guilty under VC 23153. In that case, you could face a five-year license suspension. But you can apply for a restricted license after two years of suspension. Alternatively, you can agree to have an IID system installed in your vehicle to continue driving. An IID system will take random breath samples to ensure you are not driving while intoxicated.
Payment of Restitution
Restitution is the money a court orders you to pay the victims of your crime to compensate for their injuries. The amount is meant to compensate for their losses so that they do not need to pay anything for the injuries they sustained. When you factor in hospital bills, it could be costly for the victims. That is why the liability falls on you. Your insurance provider can pay part of the money. But if the amount needed is more than the insurance can pay, you will be ordered to pay the rest out of your pocket.
But restitution is usually negotiable. Some victims inflate the costs to benefit more than they should. An aggressive criminal lawyer can review the victim’s expenses and dispute exaggerated costs. They can also negotiate with the judge on your behalf for a reduced restitution amount.
Habitual Traffic Offender
The DMV labels a person a habitual traffic offender if they accumulate more points on their driving record for specific traffic offenses, including DUI. If you receive a habitual traffic offender label, you could receive an additional 30 days to your jail sentence and an extra $1,000 to your court fine. If you have been labeled before, and this is your second label, you could receive an additional three months on top of your jail sentence.
The Three Strikes Law
A felony conviction under VC 23153 could become a strike under the Three Strikes Law if someone other than you was injured in the accident. A strike determines how the judge will sentence you for further strikes in the future. For example, if this is your first conviction, you will receive the sentence the law provides for this offense. But if you have a strike conviction on your record, and this is your second, your punishment will be double the sentence the law provides for this offense. If you have two strike convictions on your record and this is your third, you could receive a 25-to-life prison sentence for the third strike.
Defending Yourself Against Charges Under VC 23153
Fortunately, you can put up a solid defense against your charges to avoid a conviction and its grave consequences. You can do so with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can use some of the best legal defense strategies to compel the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges. Here are examples of legal defense strategies that could result in a fair outcome for your case:
You Were Not Operating Under The Influence
Your attorney’s first option for having the judge dismiss your charges is to challenge your DUI charge. Remember that you cannot face charges under VC 23153 unless you operate a vehicle while under the influence. Fortunately, there are several strategies your attorney can use to fight the DUI charge.
For example, they can demonstrate that your BAC results were unreliable. That could be true if the breathalyzer used to administer the tests was not properly calibrated or if the person handling the breathalyzer was not trained to administer such tests. In that case, your BAC results will be inadmissible in court. If the prosecutor does not have other evidence to support your DUI charges, the judge could throw your case out of court.
Your attorney could also prove that, even though your BAC indicated alcohol in your system, you had not consumed any alcohol or used drugs before driving. Something like medication or mouthwash could have triggered a positive BAC test result in your case. If that is so, the judge will dismiss your case.
Nobody Was Injured in the Accident
Your attorney can also demonstrate that no one was injured in the accident to avoid a conviction for DUI causing injury and its severe consequences. If you are the only one who sustained injuries in the accident, or the accident did not result in any harm, you will only face DUI charges, which could be more lenient than DUI causing injury. If it is your first, second, or third offense, it will be a misdemeanor, punishable by time in jail and a court fine. In this case, the judge will reduce your charges.
You Did Not Commit an Illegal Act or Fail to Act With Caution
Remember that DUI causing injury requires you to have committed an unlawful act or failed to act cautiously to prevent foreseeable injury to someone else. Without that illegal act or negligence, you will not face charges under this statute.
Your attorney can demonstrate that someone else acted unlawfully or failed to act with reasonable care, resulting in an accident in which the other person was injured. If the accident was not your fault, the judge can reduce your charges to DUI. That could result in a more lenient sentence.
If the police did not conduct themselves as legally required during your arrest and arraignment, your attorney could take advantage of that to compel the judge to dismiss your charges. Police misconduct can take many forms, including failing to read your Miranda rights after arrest and coercing or forcing you to admit to the crime. The law provides guidelines that law enforcement officers must follow when investigating a crime and making arrests. If the arresting officers did not follow the proper procedures, you must report it to your attorney. An experienced attorney will know best how to use that to benefit your case.
Find a Skilled Criminal Attorney Near Me
DUI causing an injury is a severe offense that could result in serious penalties and life-changing repercussions. That is why you need legal guidance and support if you face charges under VC 23153 in Santa Ana. We have extensive experience handling all kinds of DUI cases at Darwish Law. Thus, we could be your best bet if you need the best possible outcome for your case. We will streamline the legal process for you, explain your options, gather and compile compelling evidence, and aggressively defend you in court. Call us at 714-887-4810 to learn more about your charges and our services.