Drunk driving is illegal because it is such a danger to the public. When that danger actually results in injuries, the penalties are greatly increased. If you have been involved in a DUI-related car accident that resulted in an injury, or even death, it is critical you contact a DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Fleeing the Scene After an Accident
One of the worst things you can do if you have been involved in an accident while inebriated is to flee the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident is a separate crime commonly known as hit and run and can result in additional fines and penalties, along with up to three years of probation and two points being added to your DMV record. Even if the accident was not your fault or if you only hit an object rather than another person or vehicle, you can still be charged with this crime. If the accident resulted in an injury, you could even be charged with felony hit and run, which could leave you in prison and will result in your license being suspended.
If you fled the scene to get medical assistance, you can avoid charges, but only if you notified the medical staff or police at the hospital. In these cases, a lawyer can help ensure you do not face charges for hit and run.
When You Crash While Driving Drunk
Even if you were not at fault in the accident, the fact that you were intoxicated will still result in your being arrested and charged for driving under the influence. It is important to remember that just because you were drunk does not mean an accident was your fault. This is why it is so important to refuse to answer police question or admit fault to the other driver until you first speak with a lawyer experienced in cases involving DUI with accident. Also refuse to take any field sobriety tests. Only provide your identifying information, including your insurance information and agree to perform a chemical test if the officer requests you to do so.
If the accident was your fault and resulted in only property damage, you may be subject to increased penalties like community service work and restitution to the person whose car you hit. If you were drinking and then caused an accident that resulted injury or death, your DUI charge may become a felony as decided by the prosecutor. If the accident was caused by the other party, the charge will most likely not be increased to a felony, even if you were not driving at your best.
Are DUIs That Cause Injuries Felonies?
Just driving drunk and getting in an accident does not mean you committed a felony. The prosecutor must prove you drove DUI and violated a vehicle code which caused the accident resulting in injury to another. When the only injury is to the DUI driver then it is a misdemeanor, unless it is the fourth DUI in ten years or the driver had a felony DUI within 10 years.
While a felony can be charged for an injury that only caused pain, sometimes the prosecutors will charge minor injury cases as misdemeanors, especially when the defendant’s lawyer helps push these lesser charges. Even after filing felony charges, prosecutors and judges can reduce the charges to misdemeanors and often do that for minor injuries if the blood alcohol amount isn’t excessive and the driver doesn’t have past DUI’s. A past conviction for drunk driving not only statutorily increases a jail term but also substantially increases the chances of a person going to state prison. For first time offenders, serious injuries will often result in a multiple year prison term.
If the DUI is charged as a felony, you will face additional penalties including up to three years in prison. If the accident resulted in great bodily injury to a victim, you could be sentenced to an additional three years as well. If someone died as a result of the accident, you could even be charged with vehicular homicide and face a sentence of up to ten years.
Evidence of Fault
It is important to remember that not all accidents that involve a drunk driver are the fault of the intoxicated driver. Unfortunately, police will often make this assumption, which is why it never hurts to use a dashboard camera. Do not discuss the accident with the police without your attorney present.
A legal representative may be able uncover evidence from the accident that will prove that your intoxication did not affect the outcome of the accident, showing you should not be subjected to additional penalties for something that was not your fault. Additionally, he may be able to help you enroll in a substance treatment program to show that you are proactively taking steps to ensure this situation never happens again.
If you have been involved in an accident while driving drunk and someone was injured, it is critical you contact a lawyer as soon as possible. You can schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050.
Creative Commons Image by Chris Yarzab