Review of Driving Under the Influence with a Great Bodily Injury
Many driving under the influence cases in the state of California involve injuries.
If someone other than the alleged drunk driver is injured, then the normal misdemeanor DUI case becomes much more serious, but not all injuries are treated the same.
Under California law, there is a difference between regular injuries and great bodily injuries (GBI), which is described as a significant or substantial physical injury.
The GBI description is vague and there is no hard definition of what exactly would be considered a “significant” injury. Thus, whether someone sustained a great bodily injury is sometimes a target by experienced criminal defense lawyers.
Typically, in California, a great bodily injury includes the following injuries:
- Victim was almost killed or placed at high risk of death,
- Victim lost a body part or organ,
- Victim sustained permanent disfigurement,
- Injury caused tremendous physical pain,
- Injury lead to impairment or disability.
How is a Great Bodily Injury Determined?
When driving under the influence cases involving a potential GBI go to trial, then the jury has the responsibility to decide whether they believe the injuries qualify for a GBI enhancement.
It's often difficult to know how a jury will make their decision, and it could depend on the statements made by the victim in court.
The prosecutor needs to make a decision before the jury trial on whether they want to allege a great bodily injury in the DUI case.
If they decide to pursue a GBI, then they have the burden of proof which could include disputing the victim's injuries in court.
Due to this, a criminal defense lawyer has the opportunity to negotiate with the prosecution to remove the great bodily injury from the case.
Challenging whether or not an injury should be considered a great bodily injury, or at least telling the prosecutor you will dispute it in court, is often an effective strategy to reduce the severity of the driving under the influence case.
How Does GBI Affect a DUI case?
There are several ways a great bodily injury can impact a California DUI case, such as:
- If charged with California Vehicle Code 23153 VC DUI causing injury, and a great bodily injury is alleged, you will most likely be charged with a felony DUI case that carries a sentence of up to three years in prison;
- In a VC 23153 felony DUI causing injury, you might face up to 6 additional years in prison for each victim who suffered a GBI;
- If your DUI killed someone, then you could be facing 6 additional years for each surviving victim who sustained a great bodily injury.
As you can see, under California law, GBI is more than just an aggravating factor in a driving under the influence case, rather, it's a severe sentencing enhancement.
California Penal Code 12022.7 PC is the statute used by prosecutors for great bodily injury (GBI) sentencing enhancement that adds a consecutive 3 to 6 years in a state prison.
Will You Go to Prison if Charged with a DUI and Great Bodily Injury Allegation?
This is probably one of the toughest things I've seen over the course of the last five years, is that usually when somebody gets a DUI, it's going to be a misdemeanor.
They're not looking at any custody time whatsoever. Forget about prison. But there's a new thing on the scene here.
It has a new name and it's called great bodily injury allegation (GBI). In Los Angeles, California we see it a lot.
Basically, what it is that if you are driving a car with any type of intoxicant in your system, alcohol, drugs and even prescription medication, and you're involved in some sort of an accident and hurt somebody, and that person has a great bodily injury, then you're going to be charged now with a felony.
If you are convicted for a DUI with great bodily injury, it's a strike that will stay on your record the rest of your life.
Not only that, but it also changes a normal DUI into a DUI where you can get up to three years in prison, plus when you add that GBI allegation, that's an additional three years.
So now, you went from an ordinary California Vehicle Code 23152 DUI misdemeanor/no time to a situation where you're facing six years in prison with a strike on your record for the rest of your life.
Unfortunately, that gives the prosecutors in Los Angeles or anywhere in California a lot of power.
Now, they look your attorney square in the eye and say, if you don't take what we're offering, go ahead and go to trial.
If you lose, you're going to get a felony DUI with a great bodily injury allegation, they're going to go to prison for a long time and they will have a strike on their record for a long time.
So, you start to see the power of this DUI charge combined with the great bodily injury allegation.
Preparing a Defense Strategy to Fight the Charges
Now, that you see that you're in big trouble, what can you do to try to mitigate the situation. Obviously, you have to hire a great criminal defense attorney. I've been doing this now for almost 30 years.
I know how to handle these cases. The first thing we're going to assess is, was the accident your fault?
Because if it's not your fault, the great bodily injury is not your fault and you're not going to be held responsible for that.
The next thing we're going to look at is, is it really great bodily injury? Sometimes you've got people trying to dummy-up a personal injury claim.
They will claim they've got some horrible injury so they can make a bunch of money and they hire an attorney, when in reality, they just have a soft tissue issue. That case should have been filed as a misdemeanor.
The next thing we're going to look at is the facts and circumstances surrounding the case.
We're going to compare your case to other cases where people get these horrible sentences, and also compare your case to those where people just end up with a misdemeanor and no custody time.
So, you can't just do the same thing every time. We've got to look at your case specifically -- look at the facts and circumstances related to it -- and then do what it takes to get you the result you must have.
You've come to the right place. I've been handling these great bodily injury cases since they came into existence. I've handled thousands of DUIs over the course of almost 30 years.
Pick up the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you.
Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and we offer a free case evaluation.