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One of the chief concerns that prosecutors and legislators have when considering DUI offenses is the often fatal results that occur whenever there are DUI collisions. In fact, DUI was not considered a very serious offense until the early 1980’s when organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”) began to publicize national statistics regarding the dangers of impaired driving. People now realize that drunk driving is a very dangerous activity that can lead to serious injuries and even death.
When a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, his or her driving abilities will be significantly impaired. The driver’s coordination, reaction time and decision making will all be impacted by drug or alcohol consumption. This will frequently lead to automobile accidents.
When a person is involved in an auto accident, the police usually will not observe the accident occur but will either respond to a call for service or will come across the accident scene as part of a patrol. Officers will investigate the cause of the accident, which typically involves speaking with the parties involved. If the officer believes one or more parties are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a DUI investigation will be conducted. The driver will be asked about drinking that may have occurred and the officer will administer a series of field sobriety tests that are designed to measure a driver’s coordination, balance and ability to follow instructions. In many cases involving collisions, the investigating officer may think the driver is under the influence of alcohol when really he or she suffered a head injury during the collision or otherwise was physically affected by the accident. In these cases, an attorney can cross-examine the officer about his or her observations of the driver’s physical condition and demeanor and how these observations are consistent with a person who was just involved in a major traffic accident.
For drivers who are involved in a DUI traffic collision, there may be additional penalties imposed as a result of their conduct. In all cases involving collisions, the driver would be expected to make restitution to the victim for any and all damages incurred as a condition of DUI probation. If the driver was insured, the insurance company may cover some or all of the victim’s losses. The driver is ultimately responsible for paying restitution to the victim. The defendant can challenge the amount of restitution owed in a restitution hearing. If the driver is unable to afford restitution, the judge will usually set an ability to pay hearing and will place the defendant on a manageable payment plan based on his or her financial situation. If the defendant has not paid the full restitution amount by the end of the probation term, the remaining amount will be converted to a civil judgement that will be imposed on the defendant.
If the defendant was involved in a traffic collision that caused injury to another person, he or she could be charged with DUI with Injury under California Vehicle Code Section 23153. This can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor and can potentially result in jail or prison sentences.