Colorado Springs Fatal DUI Accident Lawyer
Car accidents can cause injuries in many ways, especially if the vehicle hits another car, a motorcycle, or a person on foot or on a bicycle. When alcohol or drug use is involved, however, what would otherwise have been a simple car accident may become a serious felony criminal charge. In Colorado, a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, or who is under the influence of drugs, and who causes injuries in an accident may face charges of vehicular assault.
The state's vehicular assault law has two main parts, which are as follows:
- If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle in a reckless manner, and this conduct is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another, such person commits vehicular assault.
- If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, and this conduct is the proximate cause of a serious bodily injury to another, such person commits vehicular assault. This is a strict liability crime.
When a DUI accident results in injury, most charges will fall under the second main part of the law. The driver charged with vehicular assault under this second section is presumed to have been driving under the influence of alcohol if their BAC was more than 0.08 percent when the accident occurred.
A driver who is intoxicated by a combination of alcohol and other drugs, or by other drugs alone, may also be charged with vehicular assault if an injury-causing accident occurs. Under this law, the fact that the drugs were legally prescribed to the driver is not a defense. The law presumes a driver is intoxicated by drugs other than alcohol if, when the accident occurred, the driver was "substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, of exercising clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle."
Conviction of vehicular assault after a DUI-related accident causes an injury means that the person convicted will face much stricter penalties than those for a DUI conviction alone. Vehicular assault is a Class 4 felony if it involves intoxication. This means that a person convicted of this crime faces two to eight years in state prison, plus thousands of dollars in fines and years of parole. If vehicular assault does not involve intoxication, it is a Class 5 felony, with slightly lighter penalties: one to five years in prison, less required parole time, and the possibility of a smaller fine. Drivers who are convicted of vehicular assault with a DUI may also have to pay punitive damages directly to the injured person. The amount of damages required depends on the facts of the case.
Colorado law prohibits driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. It also creates criminal penalties for reckless driving that causes another person's death, known as vehicular homicide. When a driver is charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and with causing a fatal car accident, they face a felony, with all the serious penalties that follow if that driver is convicted.
Colorado's vehicular homicide law specifically covers DUI-related accidents that cause another person's death. Section 18-3-106(1)(b)(I) of the state's criminal code specifies:
If a person operates or drives a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, and such conduct is the proximate cause of the death of another, such person commits vehicular homicide. This is a strict liability crime.
A person charged with vehicular homicide is presumed to have been driving "while under the influence of alcohol" if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.08 percent or higher when the fatal accident occurred. A BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 percent doesn't create this assumption, but a person with a BAC in this range might still be convicted if the prosecutor can show that the driver was in fact impaired when the accident occurred. In both cases, a driver and/or the driver's defense attorney may submit evidence that shows that the driver was not impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.
A driver may also be charged with vehicular homicide based on a DUI if they were under the influence of one or more drugs, even if no alcohol was involved. In order to show that a drug-related impairment existed, the state must show that the driver was "substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, of exercising clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle" when the accident took place.
The Colorado statute covering vehicular homicide involving DUI specifies that the act is "a strict liability crime." This means that a driver who is found to be impaired and to have caused an accident that killed someone may be convicted, even if the driver did not mean to harm anyone. The law also states that a driver who is impaired by drugs may be convicted, even if the drugs were legally prescribed and the driver was taking them as their doctor had instructed.
Vehicular homicide is a Class 3 felony if it involves a DUI. A person convicted of a Class 3 felony in Colorado faces four to 16 years in prison, plus fines of several thousand dollars and several years of mandatory parole once the prison sentence is served. The driver may also be required to pay punitive damages to the family of the accident victim.
Fatal DUI-related accidents come with serious penalties if a driver is convicted. If you or someone you love is facing a vehicular homicide charge, please don't hesitate to contact experienced Colorado Springs DUI attorney Timothy Bussey. Mr. Bussey fights to protect the rights of each of his clients, building an aggressive defense that seeks to win the best possible outcome. Call The Bussey Law Firm, P.C. at (719) 475-2555 for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.