Driving under the influence can be a felony DUI under multiple circumstances. One of those circumstances is that within the course of your DUI arrest, another person was injured or killed. The standard by which the injury can become a felony DUI is called great bodily injury (GBI). There are ten items to know when you find yourself in a situation where you may be involved in a felony DUI involving GBI.
The California Penal Code defines great bodily injury as a significant or substantial injury. It must be physical in some way; it cannot merely be an emotional injury. The GBI definition is very broad and it leaves a lot in the hands of the jury to decide what is GBI and what isn’t.
The question of if another person is injured within the GBI definition is a question of fact and not law. This means that the jury is who decides whether GBI is present or not, and not the judge. Since it can be a broad definition, there are a couple factors the jury can look to when determining whether GBI exists or not. These include the severity of the injuries and if medical care was required.
A sentencing enhancement is a number of years that can be added onto the basic DUI sentence for other circumstances in the DUI charge. The standard sentence enhancement for GBI is anywhere from three to six years in state prison. The number of additional years (i.e. the number of the enhancement) is determined based upon the age of the victim, the severity of the injuries, and the circumstances of the offense. This can apply to anyone that is involved in the commission of a felony or attempted felony. The judge can order that these additional years must run in addition to the underlying sentence or consecutively with the underlying sentence.
Under the California three strikes law, a crime involving GBI counts as a strike on your criminal record. The CA three strikes law is the sentencing enhancement provisions for persons that have been convicted of more than one serious felony. As of 2012, the law changed to state that for a second felony conviction the sentencing provisions for the crime could double For a third felony conviction that involves a serious or violent felony, the sentence increases to 25 years to life in a state prison.
If the crime itself requires the proof of injury then it is likely that the injury will be classified as serious bodily injury, versus GBI. Typically Felony DUI offenses include GBI as the enhancement because the elements of a DUI do not include proof that a person was injured; hence the additional enhancement by the court.
Unfortunately for a DUI defendant, the standard for GBI is higher than the serious bodily injury standard
In cases where a defendant is in a car accident due to intoxication and which causes another to suffer GBI, he/she could face a conviction for driving under the influence causing injury (California Vehicle Code 23153). VC 23513 can be charged as either a felony DUI or misdemeanor DUI, depending on the severity of the injuries and the circumstances.
While one won’t be charged with this enhancement in conjunction with killing another in a DUI manslaughter case, one can receive this enhancement for any surviving victims who sustained GBI.
In California, driving under the influence is what’s known as a “priorable” offense. Priorable offenses have stiffer penalties and sentences every time you are convicted for another same or similar offense.
If you have suffered three or more prior DUI convictions within the last ten years and suffer another DUI arrest, you will likely now be charged with a felony DUI in California. This becomes a definite felony DUI if you commit any DUI – even “simple” misdemeanor drunk driving with no aggravated circumstances – and you have at least one prior felony drunk driving case, you will be charged with a felony.
The prosecutor decides what charges will be filed, and they then file those charges. When the prosecutor elects to file charges against you, they are not required to file every charge. In many cases, only the most serious offenses are filed.
As always, it is prudent to retain an experienced criminal DUI attorney if you find yourself in this position. They will help you navigate the complicated world of criminal court, as well as the convoluted DUI and Felony DUI laws.