This is a good question when it comes to a felony DUI. If you or a loved one is charged with a felony DUI, this is exactly some of the evaluations that you and your attorney need to be making.
Serious Injury vs. Great Bodily Injury
In order to even be charged with a felony DUI instead of a misdemeanor DUI – which has a lot less ramifications – there needs to be some sort of a serious injury. Then you start asking, what is a serious injury? A broken bone would be a serious injury, a laceration – some sort of a bad injury. So, there really is no perfect definition.
What it will boil down to in the end is, either you negotiate it as a non-serious injury and get the misdemeanor, or you admit it is a serious injury and end up with a felony, or a jury trial is had and the jury decides if it is a serious injury, and hence, a felony DUI versus a misdemeanor DUI. So, that's how these cases are being decided.
Where it starts to get a little tricky in Los Angeles, as far as a DUI causing injury, is what about the great bodily injury allegation? That's different than a serious injury. Great bodily injury is a more sustained, lasting injury — a horrible broken bone, disfigurement.
This great bodily injury concept is important because not only does it give you a strike — any case, including a felony DUI in Los Angeles where a person admits a great bodily injury allegation — that person is going to have a strike on their record the rest of their life. They're going to serve a higher percentage of time in jail or in prison, if they get jail or prison for their felony DUI. So, this makes it a lot more of a serious circumstance.
You really need to get down to the nitty-gritty here — whether the injury is just a regular run-of-the-mill injury that shouldn't be charged as a felony DUI — whether it's just a serious injury — so, you get the felony DUI, but you don't get that extra GBI allegation, which also carries a three-year prison sentence, most of the time at 85%.
That's just the minimum, then whatever you get for the DUI. If you get the low-term two for the DUI plus another three for the great bodily injury allegation, that's five years prison at 85%. Now, you start to get a feel for how serious that is. And you get a strike on your record for the rest of your life in California.
Challenging Great Bodily Injury Allegations
These questions have to be dealt with very seriously when it comes to a DUI. You need an attorney who knows what they're doing. I've been doing these felony DUI's for twenty-five years. I've battled these great bodily injury allegations. I've even battled serious injury allegations and been able to get them struck and the client just gets a misdemeanor — no jail time, a fine. Huge.
Another thing that is an interesting twist when it comes to these felony DUI's and injury, is who caused the injury? Because guess what? That can be a complete defense to a felony DUI.
If you didn't cause the injury — if somebody else caused it or somebody else was negligent or bad driving, whatever you want to call it — caused the person's injury, and you just happened to be involved in the accident somehow, you're not going to be responsible for that, and therefore, it can't be a felony DUI against you. So, this is another area of argument.
As far as making a decision on that, if you're DUI and you get involved in some sort of an accident, it's going to be presumed that you caused the accident. So, in order to get rid of that presumption, you're going to have to bring forth evidence through your attorney, obviously, that you didn't cause the accident.
I have a case going right now where my client is charged with a felony DUI – vehicular manslaughter – because there was a death on the road while he was allegedly racing with somebody else.
But the defense is, and it's a good one and we'll either get the not guilty verdict or we'll work some sort of a deal out — the defense is that he didn't cause the accident because there was a design defect on the road, and therefore, the roadway, the way it was set-up, is what caused the accident.
If that design defect wasn't there, he wouldn't have hit it and there wouldn't be a death in this case. There's an example of how causation is key in these felony DUI cases in Los Angeles.
So, if you have a felony DUI case, get in here immediately. Let's talk about it. I do a lot of these cases – hundreds of them over the course of the last twenty-five years. I know how to set them up. I know how to investigate them. I know how to try them.
I know how to negotiate them and I know how to get you the result that's fair in your case and protects your freedom, your reputation and your rights.