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California Vehicle Code Section 23153 - DUI Causing Injury

Vehicle Code 23153 covers the crime of driving a vehicle or operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both and causing injury to another person.

What constitutes the crime of DUI Causing Injury?

To be guilty under this statute, the prosecution needs to prove that:

  • The defendant drove a vehicle or a vessel[1]
  • While the defendant was driving, he or she was under the influence of alcohol, or drugs, or both[2]
  • While driving under the influence, the defendant also committed another illegal act OR acted in a negligent manner[3]
  • And that due to the defendant’s illegal act or negligence, another person was injured[4]

What is the meaning of “under the influence”?

A person is under the influence if, as a result of drinking or consuming an alcoholic beverage and/or taking a drug, his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.[5]

It is important to note that your manner of driving is not the only factor in determining whether you were under the influence. But it is a factor that is considered with all other circumstances in a DUI charge.[6]

Using ordinary care means using reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to someone else. A person fails to exercise ordinary care if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.[7]

What is the meaning of “causing injury”?

An act causes bodily injury to another person if the injury is the direct, natural, and probable consequence of the act and the injury would not have happened without the act. A natural and probable consequence is one that a reasonable person would know is likely to happen if nothing unusual intervenes.”[8]

In the context of a DUI, this means that a person was physically injured as a consequence of you doing something illegal or acting negligently (ex. Exceeding speed limits) while driving under the influence. Meaning, the prosecution must be able to prove that the injury was directly caused by the illegal act or negligence.

Penalties

DUI Causing Injury can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. In addition to the court related matters of the VC 23153 charge, you will also have to deal with DMV hearings regarding the suspension of your driver’s license. Also note that VC 23153 can also be charged along with other offenses depending on the circumstances. For example, you may also be charged with a VC 20001 Felony Hit and Run if you did not stop to give your information or failed to provide reasonable assistance to the person injured.

For first-time offenders:

  • IF PROBATION IS GRANTED: confinement in the county jail for at least five (5) days but not more than one (1) year and pay a fine of at least three hundred ninety dollars ($390) but not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) [9]
  • IF NO PROBATION GRANTED: imprisonment in the state prison, or a county jail for not less than ninety (90) days but not more than one (1) year [10]
  • One (1) or three (3) year/s suspension of your license[11]
  • Required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle [12]
  • Court-approved drug or alcohol education program, otherwise known as “DUI school”[13]

For repeat offenders:

  • imprisonment in the state prison for a term of two (2), three (3), or four (4) years [14]
  • fine of not less than one thousand fifteen dollars ($1,015) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000)
  • IF GREAT BODILY INJURY WAS CAUSED: additional three (3) to six (6) years imprisonment in state prison [15]
  • May be given the status of "Habitual Traffic Offender" for three (3) years
  • Five (5) years suspension of your license
  • Required to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle[16]
  • Court-approved drug or alcohol education program, otherwise known as “DUI school”

What is an ignition interlock device?

An ignition interlock device, or “IID”, is essentially a breathalyzer attached to your vehicle. You need to provide a clean breath sample to the IID for you to be able to operate your vehicle. Without a clean breath sample, the IID will prevent the engine from starting. In 2019, in addition to the suspension of the driver's license, the installation of IDDs became a requirement for persons who are convicted of certain DUI offenses.[17] If you are convicted of violating VC 23153, you will be required to have a certified IID installed in your vehicle. Asking another person to provide a clean breath sample to be able to operate a vehicle with an IID is a crime.[18]

What is DUI School?

DUI school is the alcohol and drug education program that is required by the courts and the DMV. You must enroll and complete the required curriculum from a certified program provider to be able to lift the suspension on your driver's license and complete the terms of your sentence and probation, among others.

Possible Defenses

Defending against a VC 23153 charge is similar in a way to defending against other DUI charges. In defending against a VC 23153 charge, one of the most important matters to consider is that the prosecution has to prove that the illegal/negligent act is what caused the injury to another person.

Below are some possible defenses against DUI causing injury charges. However, the defenses are not limited to what is listed below because defending against a charge of this offense will depend on the circumstances of each case.

  • that you were not under the influence
  • that you did not commit an illegal act or acted negligently
  • that the injury was not caused by your negligence
  • proper procedure was not followed by the arresting officers
  • proper procedure on taking and testing BAC was not followed

No Judgment, Only Professionalism

If you have been accused or charged with the commission of VC 23153 or DUI causing injury, it is all-important to hire an experienced, aggressive, and seasoned private West Covina defense lawyer to fight your case. We always make our clients feel right at home and we encourage you to take comfort in the fact that you have a dedicated advocate on your side at Coimbra Law Firm, APC. Our highly-experienced lawyers at Coimbra Law Firm, APC will help ensure that your Constitutional rights are protected. Each of our clients will receive personalized attention, complete discretion, and trained staff working to provide the best legal assistance available. Our only job is to defend you with the maximum competence, diligence, and zealousness. Do not hesitate to contact us and call (626) 827-7222 for the representation you need.


[1] Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions 2019, Section 2100.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4][4] Id.

[5] Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions 2019, Section 2110.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Supra Note 1.

[9] California Vehicle Code Section 23556

[10] California Vehicle Code Section 23554

[11] California Vehicle Code Section 23556

[12] Senate Bill No. 1046

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] California Penal Code Section 12022.7

[16] Senate Bill No. 1046

[17] Senate Bill No. 1046

[18] Vehicle Code Section 23247

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