DUI CAUSING INJURY UNDER CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE SECTION 23103

It is a crime under California law to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. The California vehicle code creates a separate offense, however, for “DUI Causing Injury.” This offense is described in Vehicle Code Section 23103 (“VC § 23103”).

HOW CAN I BE CONVICTED OF DUI CAUSING INJURY UNDER VEHICLE CODE 23103?

To be convicted of DUI causing injury, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you

  • Committed DUI,

  • While breaking any other law or otherwise operating your vehicle in a negligent manner, AND

  • In breaking that law or committing that negligent act

This means that, after hearing all of the evidence, if the jury is convinced that all three elements are fulfilled, then they will find the defendant “guilty” of DUI causing injury. But, if the jury has any reasonable doubt as to even one of the above elements, then a “not guilty” verdict will result. For example, if the jury is convinced that the defendant committed DUI but had a reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant proximately caused the victim’s injuries, then that would result in a “not guilty” verdict.

Whether or not the defendant committed DUI is, of course, a separate issue as well. You can be considered DUI if you drive with a BAC of over 0.08%, or over 0.04% while driving a commercial vehicle, or while driving with a combined amount of drugs and alcohol in your system. For more information, please visit our other section on DUI.

POSSIBLE DEFENSES TO VEHICLE CODE 23103

YOU WEREN’T DRIVING THE CAR

While it seems obvious, you should remember that to prove your guilt on DUI causing injury unless the prosecution proves that you were actually driving a vehicle. Sometimes the evidence identifying the driver is not so cut and dry. Perhaps the prosecution or their witnesses just assumed that someone nearest to a car post-accident, or maybe eye-witness identifications of you as the driver are inconsistent, uncorroborated, or simply just not credible.

YOU WEREN’T DUI WHEN YOU WERE DRIVING

Furthermore, remember that the prosecution has to prove that you were actually DUI at the time of the accident. Consider, for example, a case where the defendant gets into a serious accident and survives, but someone else is hurt. The defendant was completely sober during the accident, but afterwards decides to run into a nearby bar and down a few shots to “take the edge off.” Police soon arrive with civilians in tow, screaming that the defendant was just driving the car that got into the accident. Naturally, the police suspect (correctly) that the defendant is intoxicated and chemical tests prove this. However, if the evidence presented at trial shows all of the above, this defendant will be found “not guilty” of DUI causing injury because he was not under the influence of anything at the time of the accident. He might be civilly liable for damages related to the accident, and he may have violated some other vehicle code sections depending on how his driving went leading up to the accident. But under these facts, the Defendant would be acquitted of DUI causing injury.

YOUR ACTIONS DID NOT CAUSE THE VICTIM’S INJURIES

Remember that the prosecution has to prove not only that you were DUI and someone was injured, but that while you were DUI, you broke some law or drove in some negligent manner, and that law-breaking or negligent driving caused the victim’s injuries. In some cases, the defendant, while DUI, speeds or drives in and out of traffic lanes and hits somebody else. In those cases, the defendant will likely be found guilty of DUI causing injury. In others, however, the connection between the defendant’s bad driving and the victim’s injury is less clear. For example, suppose the defendant, while driving drunk, does not properly stop at an intersection with a stop sign, and instead stops with part of their car over the crosswalk. Then the victim rear-ends the defendant’s car, causing the victim to bang their head on the roof of their own car. In that case, the defendant was DUI and broke some kind of traffic law, but the defendant’s actions had little if anything to do with the victim’s injuries. So, that case should probably result in a “not guilty” for DUI causing injury.

POSSIBLE PENALTIES AND JAIL TIME FOR VC 23103

DUI causing injury is often charged as a misdemeanor. As such, the possible penalties can be:

  • 5 days-1 year jail time

  • $390-$5000 in fines

  • DUI school for 3, 9, 18, or 30 months

  • Restitution

  • 1 or 3 year license suspension

A third conviction for DUI causing injury is charged as a felony, and the penalties for felony DUI causing injury include:

  • 2, 3, or 4 years prison (plus 3-6 if anyone suffers “great” bodily injury)

  • 5 year drivers license revocation

  • Habitual traffic offender status for 3 years