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What Happens If My DUI Resulted in a Car Accident?

What Happens If My DUI Resulted in a Car Accident?
Ohio law is very harsh toward intoxicated drivers who cause injuries, property damage, or death while operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving in Ohio. Ohio law considers these drivers to be significant threats to the general community, and thus, the penalties for causing an accident while under the influence will be much more severe than had you not caused the accident. If you caused an accident that hurt another person or killed them you will likely be charged with vehicular assault or vehicular homicide and will be facing the much more severe penalties that accompany those charges. If you were involved in an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will be facing penalties that are much more serious and could include prison time, restitution payments, severe fines, and potentially expensive lawsuits from the victims or their families.

Courts in Ohio also provide that if you were involved in a car accident and there was an indication you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, this will be enough to give the police officer probable cause to arrest you for a DUI offense. To have enough probable cause to arrest you for driving under the influence, the officer needs only to have enough trustworthy information that a reasonable person could have believed that you had operated your vehicle while under the influence.

The most difficult DUI cases are generally those that involve a car accident because these DUI cases involve actual injury, property damage, and potentially death rather than the threat of these consequences if you had been arrested without having been involved in a car accident. The prosecution will likely seek an increased sentence for you that includes more jail time, heavier fines, a lengthier driver’s license suspension, and many other severe penalties because the prosecution will view you as a presenting a danger to others as seen by the damage caused by the accident that led to your arrest.

However, the harshest possible penalties will likely be sought against you if you caused a car accident that injured or killed another person. If you are convicted, you could be facing years in prison, having your driver’s license suspended for anywhere between a couple of years or possibly permanently. You could also be facing much higher car insurance rates now that you have both had a car accident as well as were charged with driving under the influence. The lifetime felony criminal record could also severely impair your chances of getting a job, renting an apartment or house, or to obtain any professional license for your career such as a law license to practice law.

Accidents That Cause Injury

If you caused a car accident while intoxicated that seriously injured another person, you will likely be charged with aggravated vehicular assault under Ohio Revised Code section 2903.08 which is a third-degree felony that includes a mandatory prison sentence ranging from one to five years under O.R.C. 2929.14. The aggravated vehicular assault can also become a second-degree assault in some situations such as if your driver’s license was suspended at the time of the accident; if you have a previous conviction for aggravated vehicular assault or any other traffic-related homicide, manslaughter, or assault; if you have three or more previous DUI convictions within the past 10 years; or if you have two or more felony DUI offenses on your record. If one of these conditions apply, your second-degree felony for aggravated vehicular assault will be punishable by two to eight years in prison under O.R.C. 2929.14. Your driver’s license may also be suspended for two to ten years, or three years to life if you have been previously convicted for vehicular assault or any other traffic-related injury or death.

If you caused the death of another person while driving under the influence in Ohio, you will likely be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide. This charge is a second-degree felony under Ohio law and is punishable by a mandatory prison term of two to eight years under O.R.C. 2929.14. If you caused the death of another person while intoxicated, the offense could be elevated to a first-degree felony if you were driving with a suspended driver’s license or no license or if you have been previously convicted of vehicular homicide or any other traffic-related injury or death. The first-degree felony will be punishable by three to eleven years in prison under O.R.C. 2929.14. Your prison sentence for a first-degree felony charge of aggravated vehicular homicide could also be lengthened to between 10 to 15 years in prison if you have three or more previous DUI convictions; three or more guilty pleas for vehicular assault or homicide; or two or more felony DUI convictions. A conviction for aggravated vehicular homicide could also result in your driver’s license being suspended for life.

An added consequence, if you were involved in a car accident at the time of your DUI arrest, is that you could be facing expensive lawsuits from the victims of the car accident. These victims, or their families if you caused the death of a person, may file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against you to recover any costs resulting from the accident such as vehicle repair costs, hospital bills, or any other relevant damages that a court could decide to make you pay. The victims may generally recover for the same types of costs as those that can be recovered in a restitution hearing, but they can pursue a lawsuit against you if they are not happy with the results of the restitution hearing. This civil lawsuit will be handled separately from your criminal DUI case with the victims generally waiting until after seeing the results of your DUI trial before bringing their own civil lawsuits against you to ask for compensation for their losses resulting from your decision to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Your DUI conviction will be used as evidence against you to convince the jury that you owe them compensation.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Ohio and your DUI arrest also involved a car accident, it is absolutely critical that you hire an experienced DUI defense attorney who will know how to defend you against the increased penalties for a DUI offense that involves an accident and property damage, injury to another person, or death. The prosecutors pursuing the DUI charges against you will generally be much more motivated and looking to inflict serious consequences and penalties upon you for your DUI offense. Without a highly qualified defense attorney who has experience in defending against these DUI cases involving a car accident, you will be facing an even more dire situation with almost no help or ability to fight these very serious charges and a high likelihood that a judge will sentence you to the harshest possible penalties if you are found guilty. This is why it is so important for you to hire an experienced DUI defense attorney with a proven record of success defending against similar DUI charges.