A DUI, or a charge of driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, can be acquired by anyone. People who are charged with this offense typically don't operate a vehicle with intentions of completely disregarding the safety of those around them. Some do so because they completely miscalculated their level of impairment before getting behind the wheel, and some decide to drive because they figured they were only traveling a short distance. Regardless of a motorist's reasoning, Pennsylvania law enforcement officials aggressively enforce the state's DUI laws.
In the eyes of police officers and prosecutors, people who are arrested under the suspicion of a DUI are people who don't respect the law or the individuals around them. But this isn't always the case. People make mistakes, and in a state where law enforcement is actively seeking out people to arrest and detain for drunk or drugged driving, it isn't hard for a decent, law abiding citizen to find themselves in a sticky situation. In the event that another person is hurt as a result of an oversight, not only are you most likely beating yourself up about the situation, you will likely have to endure harsh judgment from society. Not to mention the possibility that you could potentially face harsh repercussions carried out by the justice system if you are found guilty of driving impaired.
If you have been accused of driving under the influence, it is important that you, as a motorist, are aware of what you're up against. For the purposes of this article, we'll discuss the laws applicable to serious DUI accident injuries and the penalties that will be imposed on you in light of a conviction.
Serious Injury by Vehicle Laws in Pennsylvania
Some accidents involving an impaired driver result in the infliction of a serious bodily injury to a person other than the motorist. When this occurs and a prosecutor is able to provide evidence that a motorist was in fact driving under the influence, said motorist would likely be charged with aggravated assault by vehicle by the courts. This type of DUI is a felony in the state and carries some of the harshest penalties of all the forms of impaired driving laws in Pennsylvania. In order to be convicted of this crime, a prosecutor must coherently and comprehensively prove all of the following elements:
- The motorist's conduct was negligent (he or she was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol);
- The injury was proximately related to the driver's negligent act;
- The injured party suffered a serious bodily injury as a result of a motorist's negligent conduct
Defining “Serious Bodily Injury”
Pennsylvania statutes explicitly define the degree of harm that is deemed a serious bodily injury. It is referred to as an infliction that causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. In accordance with this definition, some examples of a serious bodily injury include the loss of a limb, paralysis, or head, neck, and spinal injuries.
In the event that an injured party's injuries aren't necessarily categorized as a serious bodily injury, a motorist could be charged with a DUI resulting in injury. This is a less serious crime, but it still carries relatively harsh penalties.
Serious Injury by Vehicle Penalties
A person who is charged with the crime of causing an accident that involves a serious bodily injury by driving under the influence will have acquired a second-degree felony. This means that he or she may face a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years, along with a costly fine up to $25,000. If more people are harmed as a result of an accident, these repercussions will be imposed multiple times by counts for each victim.
DUI cases are highly individualized and there are numerous possibilities as to what transpired on the road. A prosecutor's ability to provide evidence to support the elements of this offense is heavily dependent on the circumstances of a defendant's case and the defenses brought to challenge this evidence by a skilled defense attorney. A legal professional could argue that the accident was unavoidable and would have inevitably occurred regardless of if a motorist was intoxicated or not. Or an attorney could argue that a victim's condition doesn't necessarily fall under the state's definition of a serious bodily injury. A knowledgeable defense attorney will be able to assess your case and present these defenses and more accordingly.
Experienced Philadelphia DUI Defense Attorney
Causing an accident that results in the harm of another party is a criminal offense. And if a motorist was suspected of driving impaired by an officer at the time of this accident, this crime is classified as a felony DUI. If you have been arrested and charged with this crime you should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable of the state's DUI laws in the state. It's important to remember that just because you have been charged with this crime, it does not mean that you will be convicted. You do not have to plead guilty. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.