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How Does Victim Injury In A Felony DUI Impact Sentence in California?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Nov 01, 2018

This is a good question when it comes to a felony DUI. If you or a loved one is charged with a felony DUI, these are precisely some of the evaluations you and your attorney need to make.

There needs to be some severe injury even to be charged with a felony DUI instead of a misdemeanor DUI – which has a lot fewer ramifications. Then you start asking, what is a severe injury? A broken bone would be a severe injury, a laceration – some lousy injury. So, there is no perfect definition.

It will boil down to either you negotiate it as a non-serious injury and get the misdemeanor, or you admit it is a severe injury and end up with a felony, or a jury trial is had. The jury decides if it is a severe injury, hence, a felony DUI versus a misdemeanor DUI. So, that's how these cases are being resolved.

What about the extraordinary bodily injury allegation? That's different than a severe injury. Significant bodily injury is a more sustained, lasting injury — a horrible broken bone, disfigurement.

This great bodily injury concept is crucial because not only does it give you a strike — any case, including a felony DUI in Los Angeles where a person admits a significant bodily injury allegation — that person is going to have a strike on their record the rest of their life. They will serve a higher percentage of time in jail or prison if they get jail or prison for their felony DUI. So, this makes it a lot more of a severe circumstance.

You 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. Still, 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. Suppose you get the low-term two for the DUI plus another three for the extraordinary bodily injury allegation, five years in 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 DUIs for twenty-five years. I've battled these tremendous bodily injury allegations. I've even battled serious injury allegations and been able to get them struck, and the client receives a misdemeanor — no jail time, a fine. Huge.

Another thing that is an interesting twist when it comes to these felony DUIs and injuries is who caused the damage? 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 lousy driving, whatever you want to call it — caused the person's damage. 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 deciding on that, if you're DUI and you get involved in some accident, it's presumed that you caused the accident. So, to get rid of that presumption, you're going to have to bring forth evidence through your attorney that you didn't cause the accident.

I have a case going on 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 deal out — the reason 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 weren'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 critical 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 have done many of these cases – hundreds of them over 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 a fair result in your case and protect your freedom, reputation, and rights.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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