California law prohibits motorists from driving under the influence of alcohol. If you drive your vehicle while intoxicated and cause an accident that causes injuries to another person, you face DUI causing injury charges. The offense is priorable and a wobbler, but with severe punishment. You could face VC 23153 charges together with VC 23152(a) for driving under the influence, VC 23152(b) driving with a BAC of 0.08% or more, and VC 23152(f) driving while intoxicated (DWI) by drugs.
These charges carry lengthy sentences, but you can fight against them to receive a favorable ruling. Our lawyers at San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm understand DUI laws and help you build robust defenses.
Overview of DUI Causing Injury
If you face allegations of driving under the influence and injuring a third party, the prosecutor must prove the accusations before your conviction. The prosecution must prove various elements of the offense, including:
- You violated California DUI laws
- Besides violating DUI laws, you drove negligently
- The negligence and driving under the influence caused harm to someone else
If you find yourself accused of driving while impaired or intoxicated, you are guilty if you did any of the following:
- You drove while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol where your physical and mental abilities are compromised
- Your BAC was at 0.08% or more as you drove
- You operated the vehicle high on drugs or on both alcohol and drugs
A 0.08% BAC or more is only applicable to conventional cars. However, if you were operating a common carrier vehicle, you will face DUI charges if your BAC was higher than 0.04%. Various elements that must be proven to receive a conviction must be well understood. Here, we discuss these elements and how they are used in convicting you of this offense.
Driving With a 0.08% BAC Level or Above
If you face charges of a DUI that caused injuries to others, it means you were impaired, and your physical and mental faculties were affected. Blood alcohol content that is above the legal limit indicates that you cannot cautiously drive like a sober driver under similar circumstances. If you were high on drugs as you drove, you also broke VC 23152(f).
The drugs you took may have been prescribed medication or illegal ones. Impairment on the roads is not legal because the drugs were prescription medicines. According to the law, driving impaired by prescription drugs is illegal and can result in you wounding another person if an accident occurs.
If your blood alcohol concentration was above or at 0.08%, this is per se law. This means you are automatically guilty of DWI or drunk even when you do not show physical signs of impairment. Determining that your BAC was above the legal limit is critical in convicting you. Typically, when they arrive at an accident scene, the police will want to establish the accident’s cause. One of the issues they look at is if the driver was intoxicated. A BAC test is then performed to determine the level of intoxication, and if it is beyond the legally allowed limit, you are guilty of the offense.
You Acted Negligently or Violated the Law
Under VC 23153, you must have either acted negligently or broken another law as you drove impaired. This means, to be found guilty of a DUI causing injury, your actions or negligence are why the other person sustains injuries.
For instance, you were high driving from a bar, but another driver rear-ends you and is hurt. Ordinarily, you will be charged with a DUI causing injuries, but your attorney can argue that you should be charged with a misdemeanor. The argument in your defense by your lawyer would be that you are not the reason for the accident but the other driver.
On the other hand, if you drove at high speed and were the one that rear-ended the other driver, you would face charges of DUI causing injury. The reasons behind this charge would be that you sped and were intoxicated, and because of your speed, you crashed into the other vehicle resulting in the driver sustaining injuries.
Penalties for DUI Causing Injuries – VC 23153
As earlier stated, the offense is a wobbler, meaning you can face misdemeanor or felony charges. The punishment for the crime depends on several reasons that include:
- The circumstances and facts of the offense and
- Suppose it is a repeat offense in ten years. All DUI offenses in California are priorable meaning for every repeat offense; your punishment becomes steeper.
An important point to note is that standard DUI offenses become automatic felony offenses when committed for the fourth time in ten years. A DUI causing an injury, on the other hand, becomes a felony automatically if the offense is repeated for the third time in ten years.
If a prosecutor, after evaluating your case charges you with a misdemeanor offense, the penalties you may face include:
- Misdemeanor probation lasting between three and five years
- County jail sentence of not less than five days to a maximum of a year
- Paying a cash fine of $390 in the minimum and a maximum of $5,000
- Attending a DUI school for drugs or alcohol for three or nine or eighteen or thirty months
- A suspension of your driver’s license for a year to three years
- Installation of an ignition interlock device in all the vehicles you drive and
- Paying your victims restitution
If you face felony charges, a conviction typically carries steeper penalties. Some of the punishments you will encounter include:
- State imprisonment for two or three or four years
- Additional and consecutively served prison sentence lasting between three and six years if your victim sustains significant injuries to their body
- An extra year served consecutively for each person that sustains injuries due to your accident
- Earning a strike in your record if you cause another person great bodily harm according to the three-strikes law of California
- Paying a fine ranging from $1,015 to $ 5,000
- Attending a DUI school for eighteen or thirty months
- Having your driving privileges revoked for five years, but with the installation of an IID, you can have your driving privileges restored after a year of suspension
- Earning the status of a habitual traffic offender lasting three years
Defending against DUI Causing Injury Charges
According to the penalties discussed above, a conviction on violating VC 23153 can result in steep penalties, let alone other consequences. When faced with these allegations, you will need an experienced attorney to fight the allegations on your behalf. While fighting for you, your lawyer will explore ways to challenge the BAC results and prove you were not intoxicated, among other defenses.
Additionally, your lawyer will ensure that the law was followed in your arrest and other procedures, and if they were not, it would be a basis for your defense. With the help of an accident reconstruction expert, your lawyer will challenge the actual cause of the injuries sustained by the alleged victim of the accident. If other factors are the reason for the accident and subsequent injuries, you are innocent of this offense. Some of the defenses your attorney will present to have you acquitted for the crime or receive a lesser penalty include:
There Was Another Accident Cause
Determining the cause of an accident is critical in establishing your guilt in California. Being intoxicated does not automatically mean you were responsible for the accident. With the help of experts, your attorney can challenge the prosecutor’s case by pointing out other causes of the accident, hence the injuries.
Some common causes of accidents include:
- Poor weather conditions – If the prevailing weather conditions at the time of the accident were unfavorable causing the accident, then your intoxication was not the reason for the crash. If your lawyer can prove that the weather was the reason for your accident, you cannot be charged with this offense, although you may face standard DUI charges.
- Dangerous road conditions – The road condition can also be the reason for an accident and not your drunk or intoxicated state. If you hit a pothole or there was an oily spillage on the road that contributed to the accident, you are innocent of a DUI causing injury offense.
- Malfunctioning vehicle part – Vehicles are known to malfunction or break from time to time. If your brakes failed despite your best efforts, the accident’s cause could be concluded to be the malfunctioning parts and not intoxication. When the jury is convinced of this argument with the help of evidence, the charges against you will be dropped, although you may still face standard DUI charges.
When police are called to an accident scene and realize that you were drunk or impaired, they quickly assume your intoxication caused the accident. With the above defenses, among others, you can be found innocent of the offense and avoid the steep penalties.
Challenging Breathalyzer Test Results
One of the reasons that you would face charges for a DUI causing injury offense is if your alcohol content is beyond the legal limit. The BAC level is determined by carrying out a breathalyzer test, which involves breathing into a handheld gadget that measures the alcohol in your breath.
Unfortunately, these test results are not 100% accurate, given various factors that affect their accuracy. Some of the issues that can be used to challenge the results are:
- Body size differences affect the breathalyzer partition ratio
- The margin of error for the gadget
- The device was improperly calibrated
- Auto-brewery syndrome
However, the prosecutor can argue that the process of carrying out the breathalyzer test was flawless, and hence the results were accurate. However, experts also say that the results have an error margin of between 0.005% and 0.02%. This margin can result in the assumption that your BAC levels were above the legal limit when they were not.
Underlying Health Conditions or Diabetes
Certain health conditions or lifestyles can trigger the production of ketones. When your body lacks sufficient carbohydrates required for energy, a metabolic process known as ketosis is started. When you are consuming a diet high in proteins and low in carbohydrates, your body will burn the fat cells for energy instead of carbohydrates. If you have an underlying health issue such as diabetes, you will also trigger ketosis because your body cannot consume the insulin produced.
Ketones produced under the above conditions are eliminated through breath or urine and are converted to alcohol. If this is the case and you breathe through a breathalyzer device, the results can register false results when you are not intoxicated by alcohol. If your lawyer can convince the court that the breathalyzer results were inaccurate because your condition influenced them, you will not be guilty.
False Blood Test Results
The law states that blood samples taken to determine BAC content must be under strict rules to enhance their accuracy. When these rules are not strictly followed, the results can be inaccurate, resulting in false accusations. If blood was drawn to test for alcohol following a DUI accident resulting in injuries, your lawyer could challenge the process and results.
Sometimes blood samples can fail to be tested for some days. This can cause fermentation or decomposition of the blood. If this happened in your case, the results from the sample would be inaccurate to conclude you caused the accident due to intoxication. Your attorney can also argue that the sample taken was improperly stored or contaminated, and hence the test results are inaccurate.
You Were Not Intoxicated
When testifying against you, police officers can claim that you exhibited signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, loss of balance, or red eyes. However, if you were not high and assumed you were, your lawyer can argue by stating various reasons explaining your symptoms. Some of the physical signs of intoxication that can be innocently explained include:
- Slurred speech – This symptom may mean you were stressed or fatigued
- Watery or red eyes – This can be a sign of an allergy
- The smell of alcohol in your breath – This can be a sign of sickness or medications you are taking
- Imbalance – If you have an injury, it could be the reason your gait is unsteady
With these innocent explanations to your symptoms, reasonable doubt can be created to indicate that you were not intoxicated to cause the accident. If the court accepts your reason, the charges will be dismissed.
You have a Medical Condition or GERD
Despite how sophisticated a breathalyzer is, it is susceptible to giving false readings. Some medical conditions cause the mouth to have alcohol due to the acid that travels from the stomach. Some of these conditions include:
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – GERD
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Hiatal hernia
If you suffer from any of these conditions, it could be the reason why the breathalyzer test results indicated a high level of alcohol concentration in your blood. Your lawyer can present your medical records to show you suffer from the disease and have your charges dismissed.
Alcohol in Your Mouth
You can also be charged with DUI causing injuries if indeed you caused an accident and the breathalyzer results showed you had alcohol in your mouth. There are many reasons why you may have alcohol residue in your mouth. Still, it is not a reason to indicate you were intoxicated, and your condition resulted in the accident.
Breathalyzers are hardly able to differentiate between ethanol and alcohol readings because they share similar chemical compounds. As a result, if you had consumed anything that had alcohol in it, the breathalyzer device can detect it as alcohol in your system. Your lawyer can argue that you were not drunk, and the alcohol detected in your mouth was from another source such as:
- An ingredient in asthma medication called Albuterol
- Breath sprays
- Residue from food made using alcohol
- Drugs made with alcohol, such as cough syrups
With evidence, your lawyer can convince the court that the alcohol detected in your breath was not due to intoxication. Hence, the accident was a standard one, not influenced by alcohol.
Police Misconduct and Errors in DUI Reports
Misconduct by a police officer can result in the dismissal of these charges. If your attorney can prove that the officers involved in the case made errors or misbehaved, the evidence they have against you can be dismissed. This means, even if you were driving while intoxicated and caused the accident, the police must follow the law in conducting their investigation and arresting you.
Some areas that can result in police misconduct or errors include:
- Failing to follow Title 17 regulations
- Missing information or inaccuracies in DUI reports by the police
- Manipulated, unlawfully obtained or fabricated evidence
- Untruthful testimony by a police officer in court
When your lawyer notices these errors, among others, he can focus their argument on them and create reasonable doubt in the prosecutor’s case. If the views carry the day, charges against you are dismissed.
Related Offenses to VC 23153
A variety of offenses exist that can be prosecuted in addition to or instead of VC 23153. Some of the common crimes include:
VC 23152 – Driving Under the Influence
If your lawyer convinces the court that your intoxication was not the cause of the accident that resulted in injuries, DUI causing injuries charges can be dropped. In its place, you can be prosecuted for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs since it is an offense in California.
The offense is also priorable, meaning the penalties depend on repeating the crime in ten years. If found guilty, the penalties are severe, with one of the consequences being the suspension of your driving privileges.
PC 191.5 – Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated
This is another offense that is closely related to VC 23153. The crime is a more serious one, and you can face these charges if the injuries the victim sustained caused their death. However, the prosecutor must prove elements of this offense before a conviction is reached. You can face PEN 191.5 charges if:
- You drove while intoxicated, and in the process, you violated another law, or you acted negligently, and as a result, a person died
- As you drove while drunk, you caused another individual’s death
If this offense’s circumstances make it even more severe, instead of charges for violating PEN 191.5, you will be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
VC 20001 – Hit and Run Felony Resulting in Death or an Injury
This law prohibits one against causing an accident and running away from the scene after injuring or death. The state will charge you with this offense if:
- Fail to stop after the accident and give your details or information and
- Give expected help to the injured person or report the accident to the police
PC 273a – Child Endangerment
The state takes the protection of minors very seriously. If you drive while intoxicated with a minor in the vehicle, you can face child endangerment charges. The penalties, when found guilty, are severe and can alter your life adversely.
This offense is related to DUI, causing injuries if, as you drive, you cause an accident that injures the child. In this case, the prosecutor will charge you with two offenses: child endangerment and violating VC23153.
Find a San Jose DUI Lawyer Near Me
When a loved one or yourself is faced with allegations of violating VC 23163, the charges are severe, and the repercussions even more devastating. However, you can fight these allegations by hiring a San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm lawyer to represent you. Call our offices at 408-622-0204 to discuss your case with one of our dedicated lawyers.