Suspects facing DUI criminal charges often face challenges from the complicated nature of trial proceedings. When you face arrest for DUI causing injury, the prosecutor filing a case against you has the discretion to enter either misdemeanor or felony charges for the criminal trial. As a result, you will need to prepare adequately for the expected procedures you will undertake, as the criminal procedure is often rigorous and demanding. In making preparations, researching statutory provisions, judicial precedent, and sentencing policies is necessary to equip you with the information you need. However, performing thorough research by yourself may be tasking, especially if you have limited legal experience, so you will need the help of a DUI defense Attorney.
You want to go for a highly experienced legal team that understands your specific needs and seeks high-quality research, as the standard of proof in criminal cases is usually high. At Bakersfield DUI Attorneys, you will work with some of the best criminal defense Attorneys serving clients who face DUI causing injury charges in Bakersfield, California. Our team focuses on DUI defense, giving access to legal support from skilled and experienced Attorneys.
The Legal Definition of a DUI Causing Injury
Section 23153 of the California Vehicle Code provides for the offense of DUI causing injury. The main element that will help the prosecutor enter this criminal charge against you is causing significant bodily harm to another person while driving under the influence. Moreover, the offense should constitute acts of negligence or law violations that consequently caused the victim harm.
Since the prosecutor handling your case will rely on the statutory provisions from section 23153, you also want to identify the specific elements of the crime, as stated in the section. A criminal trial places the burden of proof on the prosecutor to provide evidence supporting the charges you face. Hence, he/she is responsible for proving your guilt and advocate for your conviction.
To do this, the prosecutor must confine the legal arguments in all relevant elements of the crime. It is important to note that the prosecutor cannot win the case until he/she proves your engagement in all elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
Thus, it helps to understand the possible argument points that the prosecutor will use in court. With the information, your attorney can anticipate some arguments and provide counter-claims to disprove your guilty involvement in a DUI causing injury. The main elements of the crime that the prosecutor will have to prove are:
You Were Driving Under the Influence
The first element of crime involves showing that you drove a vehicle under the influence, amounting to a law violation. The prosecutor's strategy may include providing evidence that shows the actions or physical state you were in, contrary to DUI prohibitive laws found in the California Vehicle Code.
The prosecution's first argument point will attempt to prove that you were under the influence. Under section 23152, the California Vehicle Code prohibits motorists from driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Usually, proving a defendant's physical state requires the prosecutor to provide information on your physical appearance and behavior. The rationale behind these sources of proof comes from the need to show that you were physically and mentally incapacitated from alcohol and drugs.
Therefore, you can expect details describing your physical appearance when a traffic officer stopped you. For example, the prosecutor may issue photographs or recorded footage showing your eyes’ color and lack of physical balance. From inference, these physical characteristics are common in any drunk person, and the prosecutor will have a valid claim in his/her presentations.
Additionally, evidence from police reports detailing the smell of your car and your breath will play a significant role in the prosecutor's claims. He/she can persuade the court to find you guilty of drunk driving based on the police report details.
Further, any unusual behavior that you exhibited after stopping at the traffic police check may offer several discussion points for the prosecutor. For example, if you appeared extremely restless or drowsy when answering the arresting traffic officer's questions, the traits may be proof of being under the influence.
Apart from using physical pointers to conclude your mental state at the time of arrest, a further proof will come from your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) test results. Usually, traffic officers at DUI checkpoints should observe the administrative duty to conduct preliminary alcohol tests on suspected motorists.
Section 23152 makes it unlawful for a motorist to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, as it indicates a significant level of intoxication. With the requirements under the provision, traffic officers need to conduct tests that provide specific BAC results to promote a fair investigation and DUI arrest.
Mostly, traffic officers will issue a breathalyzer test, where you will breathe into a small device that measures the alcohol levels in your breath. The standard BAC check measures the amount of alcohol in your blood for every 210 liters of breath. Hence, if your readings amount to an average of 0.08% or more, it would indicate a high alcohol level in your breath, meaning that you have violated the law.
Alternatively, you may have to take a urine test by providing a urine sample for analysis. Like the breathalyzer test, traffic officers will use chemical procedures to check for the BAC level in your body and submit the results to determine the next step.
You need to note that having BAC results of 0.08% or more will amount to an automatic violation of the law. Thus, the officers will use the preliminary results to apprehend and detain you, pending additional DUI tests that provide more accurate results.
For example, the officers may subject you to a preliminary breath test at the checkpoint and later ask you to take a chemical test at the station. If both tests reveal a BAC higher than 0.08%, there will be a valid claim to proceed with the matter to trial. Nevertheless, the prosecutor still relies on additional attributes like the results of a field sobriety test to present an argument against you.
The last category involves intoxication from using other drugs apart from alcohol. In section 23252(f) of the vehicle code, it is unlawful to operate a car while under the influence of drugs. The drugs in question may include narcotics like heroin, cocaine, and acid. However, you also need to note that legally acquired drugs also fall within this category, as long as they can alter the normal functioning of your mind and body.
As a result, you may face arrest for driving after using sedative prescription drugs, especially if they cause significant side effects like extreme drowsiness or confusion. The over-the-counter medication also counts as drugs in the DUI section, as they can impair your normal mental and physical state.
Despite the discretion that traffic officers exercise when checking your BAC levels and deciding to arrest you, they should follow procedural rules. Firstly, a traffic officer should explain the reason for stopping you and subjecting the DUI test, to help you understand the importance of complying with the instructions you receive. He/she should also explain the risk of refusing to undertake a DUI test, including the possibility of incurring more penalties. The information will serve as a warning and guide to help you abide by the law and understand the various sources of proof collected during the DUI check.
You Acted Negligently or Violated Another Law from Being Under the Influence
On top of showing that you were mentally and physically incapacitated from drugs or alcohol, the prosecutor should show your careless driving behavior. The requirement satisfies the actus reus element required in all criminal cases to convict an accused person. Hence, the prosecution will focus on showing that you drove negligently or with undue disregard for other human life.
Since you may have displayed negligence in different ways, the prosecutor must give specific details of careless actions that arose from being drunk when driving. For example, if you were too intoxicated to exercise proper driving skills, it will be sufficient for the prosecution to use the information against you in court.
The details of your actions may include failing to hold the steering wheel throughout or leaning your body out of the window occasionally. Some motorists may also use their phones to record video footage of themselves and others in the car, taking their focus off the road completely.
On the other hand, your negligence may cause you to break traffic regulations, as you will be too drunk to observe the rules. In this case, you may engage at high speeds that endanger pedestrians and other motorists on the road. Since you will violate speed limit rules in the specific road point, your actions satisfy the elements of a crime necessary in the case.
Other criminal violations include failing to yield before joining a junction or multi-laned highway and running red traffic lights that direct you to stop. Also, failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks is a violation that can lead to a DUI with an injury.
Often, the evidential sources come from witness testimonies and surveillance footage that shows your driving behavior. Additionally, police reports from the officers on duty at the time of your arrest will also hold essential details for the prosecutor's use. Thus, your DUI defense Attorney should scan the different sources at the discovery stage to help prepare for the information dispelled in court.
Usually, your lawyer will also help you prepare for the prosecutor's cross-examination, especially if you choose to testify. While the choice to testify may be beneficial in bringing important details to the court's attention, you need to stay ready for the prosecutor's questions. One of the main preparation tactics you can use is holding a deposition hearing where your attorney will determine the weight of evidence you intend to give and advise on the way forward.
The Victim's Injuries Were From your DUI Negligence
The final element to prove is that the victim suffered body injuries from your negligence or law violations. Here, the prosecutor will base all his/her arguments on the DUI as the cause for your dangerous behavior and connect your unlawful actions to the victim's injuries.
While presenting arguments, the prosecutor may also focus on the specific type of accident that occurred and relate the case facts to your DUI offense. For example, if the victim was a pedestrian at a crosswalk, the prosecutor will provide evidence to show high speed as the cause for collision.
Usually, the argument strategy will change depending on the circumstances of your case. You may need to give evidence supporting any claims you make that shift the blame from your DUI to external factors. For instance, if you want to include elements like extreme weather or unforeseen vehicle defects, the burden of proof may shift to you.
Your defense lawyer should assess the case facts beforehand and help you determine whether there is a need for additional proof. You will also need to provide all the relevant information you remember regarding the events leading to an accident. In giving details extensively, you increase the chances of finding an argument point that could be pivotal to your defense.
Since a DUI arrest involving an injury is likely to occur at the accident scene, traffic officers may form prejudicial opinions before the arrest. For example, they may fail to issue a preliminary breathalyzer test, as they will assume the collision occurred from drunk driving.
If you faced these circumstances after the incident, it is essential to inform your lawyer about it. This way, he/she will have a valid claim in stating that you faced an unfair investigation process. Moreover, we advise you to avoid engaging with the victim who suffered an injury at the scene. Apologizing or accusing the person after the accident occurs can lead to the collection of further evidence that the prosecutor will use against you.
At trial, the prosecution will attempt to link your DUI-related behavior to the causing of injuries by calling witnesses to testify. Apart from this, you should be ready for police reports that include the record of events, as stated by the arresting officers on duty. In some cases, the prosecutor may also work with the victim to produce medical reports from a doctor. With a doctor’s opinion, the prosecutor can show that the victim's injuries arose from a car crash based on different trauma points.
Defenses for the Crime of DUI With Injury
While it is not always easy to disprove the evidential sources brought against you, having a defense lawyer by your side will alleviate the pressure of combatting the prosecutor's accusations alone.
The primary role that a DUI lawyer performs is preparing persuasive and valid defenses to present in the trial. If he/she successfully presents statements and evidence in your defense, the judge may lower the sentence or acquit you of all charges. To get a complete charge acquittal, your defense attorney needs to challenge the different arguments that the prosecutor gives when presenting the crime elements.
The goal will be to disprove his/her claims and cast reasonable doubt on specific issues. Since the standards in criminal cases require that all elements be sufficiently proven, your lawyer may discredit the prosecutor's statements. The possible defenses to include are:
You Faced Improper Procedures Before Arrest
As discussed, your DUI arrest may occur at the accident scene, meaning that the traffic officers may already have reason to suspect you of a DUI. Consequently, they may fail to inform you of possible outcomes for your actions, like refusing to submit to a DUI test. Usually, the failure to take a test may lead to a sentencing enhancement that results in longer jail sentences or fine payments. Other times, the arresting officer may apprehend you based on the victim's account of events instead of relying on BAC test results.
These oversights amount to unfair procedural action on the officer's side, as you will face arrest without probable cause. Hence, your attorney can use the argument in your defense to show that you could have been within the 0.08% threshold but were still arrested.
If you choose to use the defense, you should be willing to submit to subsequent tests and cross-examinations to verify your claims. However, since the trial occurs weeks or months after your initial arrest, your blood alcohol concentration will be inaccurate. Due to this, the best solution is to rely on previous experiences you faced that bring out the unfair procedures you faced.
You Were Not Under the Influence
Sometimes, your BAC readings may show inaccurate results based on different factors. For example, if the officer subjecting the test accidentally mishandled the breathalyzer device, your readings may be higher than they should. Other times, inaccuracies occur from biological processes like rising blood alcohol levels, a common condition among patients living with diabetes.
Evidence of your intoxication may also come from field sobriety tests that are not mandatory to undertake. Therefore, you may choose to use the defense to show that you faced substandard or inaccurate methods of subjecting DUI tests. However, you will need to support your claims with proof or risk facing additional penalties for making false statements.
Information from Accident Assessment
The analysis and reports from an independent accident reconstruction specialist can also serve as defenses. Here, you will use the reports and opinion evidence from the independent professional to show that the accident did not occur because of a DUI.
The defense does not deny that you were under the influence but points out other important factors to the incident. For example, if extreme weather conditions impaired your vision, you may use the facts as the main argument of the cause of injury to the victim.
Ideally, the change in focus to external causes of the accident should shift the blame from you. If successful, you may receive a significantly lower sentence, despite still facing a criminal conviction for drunk driving.
Penalties for the Offense of DUI with Injury
The conclusion of presentations from the prosecutor and your defense attorney leads to the sentencing hearing. During the hearing, you will learn of your case outcome, where the judge will find you either guilty or innocent of charges.
It is necessary to remember that a DUI causing injury is classified as a wobbler crime, meaning that it may attract felony or misdemeanor penalties. Therefore, upon receiving a guilty verdict, you should prepare for the judge’s directives, as he/she holds the discretion on the type of punishment to issue.
As the judge exercises his/her sentencing discretion, there are various sentencing policies and guidelines to help him/her issue a fair judgement. Some of the guiding factors in consideration are:
- Your criminal record, which aggravated charges to a felony if you have past convictions
- The circumstances of your case
- The severity of the victim's injuries
The penalties are in different categories based on whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges. They include:
- Payment of fines ranging between $390 to $5000
- Up to one year in county jail
- Three to five years of summary probation
- Up to thirty months of compulsory DUI school attendance
- Mandatory payment of restitution to the victim
- Two to four years in state prison
- Fine payments of up to $5000
- The entry of the Habitual Traffic Offender status for three years
- Up to thirty months of DUI school
- Three to six additional years in prison if the victim suffered severe bodily injury
Some of the injuries classified as grievous to the victim include:
- Severe burns causing skin discoloration
- Bone fractures
- Injuries affecting the central nervous system
Contact a DUI Defense Attorney Near Me
Dealing with a DUI causing injury may be demanding for you, primarily because you will be liable to charges in multiple court sessions. Moreover, the technicalities of a criminal DUI proceeding increase the need for the services of a legal professional who can provide reliable guidance to help you save time and resources as you continue to prepare for trial. Thus, we recommend reaching out to a criminal defense attorney who focuses on DUI cases, to increase your chances of success significantly.
At Bakersfield DUI Attorney, we focus on providing the best legal services to anyone facing DUI causing injury charges in Bakersfield, California. Our experience with the DUI practice area has equipped us with the necessary tools to face a prosecutor in court and fight for an acquittal or sentence reduction. To get in touch with us, call 661-215-5660.