DUI Causing Injury

California Vehicle Code 23153, Driving While Under the Influence (DUI) Causing Injury

Prosecutors will charge you with "DUI with injury" under California Vehicle Code 23153 DUI Causing Injury if: Because you drove under the influence, you caused injury to another person. Depending on,

1. Circumstances surrounding the offense, and

2. Any past criminal activity or DUI charges (prosecutors will focus on prior DUI charges, primarily).

You can face misdemeanor or felony prosecution based on the outcome of the above investigations.

To give you a better understanding of the offense and the specifics of the investigation, defense attorneys well versed with California DUI laws explain:

1. California Vehicle Code 23153 DUI Causing Injury

2. What actions will the prosecution take to prove your guilt in a DUI with injury case?

3. Vehicle Code 23153: Punishment, sentencing and penalties

4. Can you fight the charges of DUI Causing Injury?

5. Offenses related to Vehicle Code 23153 DUI Causing Injury

This article contains information regarding California Vehicle Code 23152(a), DUI with injury. You will find more resources online or call our office. For a consultation, contact California Justice Law Group. Call or email our office for information about California Penal Code 191.5

1. California Vehicle Code 23153 DUI Causing Injury

In 1911, California enacted the first laws prohibiting drunk driving. The laws made 'driving while intoxicated' illegal; however the definition of 'intoxicated' was left to individual interpretation. Unhappy with the ineffectiveness of the laws, lobbyists began seeking stricter restrictions.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) led other citizen groups in convincing lawmakers to rewrite California DUI laws in the 1981. The decade saw sweeping changes in California's DUI laws, which brought changes the prosecuting, defending and punishing of alleged offenders.

1981 saw the introduction of Vehicle Code 23152, which prohibited driving while 'under the influence' or driving with Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.10-percent or higher. Rising pressure by citizen groups influenced California legislature to lower the legal limit from a BAC of 0.10-percent to today's BAC of 0.08-percent in 1989.

The prohibition of driving while intoxicated, as written in California's Vehicle Code 23153(a), remained the same in 1989.

2. What actions will the prosecution take to prove your guilt in a DUI with injury case?

According to California Vehicle Code 23153(a), 'DUI causing injury', prosecutors must prove three facts (elements of the crime) in order to win a conviction. The prosecution will choose a subdivision in which to charge you and proceed to prove: 

  • While under the influence of drugs/alcohol, you drove          
  • In addition to driving while under the influence, you broke a law, acted in/or were negligent during the time you operated a motor vehicle, and   
  • You injured another person due to that negligent behavior or unlawful act.        

To convict you of 'driving with a BAC of 0.08-percent or more and causing injury to another during that time' under California's Vehicle Code 23153(b) the last two articles do not change, however the first changes.

So instead of proving that you drove under the influence, the prosecutor must prove that you drove with a BAC of 0.08% or greater. 

Prosecutors only have to prove a BAC of 0.04-percent or greater if you drive a commercial vehicle. You will find a complete description of California DUI laws concerning commercial drivers at the California DMV website.

Explaining the three elements of the law will help you understand the offense better.

1. While under the influence of alcohol/drugs, you drove or Your BAC was 0.08-percent or greater while driving

Driving "under the influence," as defined by law means," “your physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that you no longer have the ability to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.” Driving under the influence of drugs means both illegal and prescription medications. Drugs include Over-the-counter medications, as well.

The "per se" law or driving 'with a BAC of 0.08-percent or more' presumes that if your BAC is over 0.08-percent at time the breath test or blood test was taken, you are guilty of DUI. Whether you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at that time, charges against you will happen.

Your BAC (Blood alcohol concentration) is the amount of alcohol in your blood stream. Grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath measure your BAC.

2. In addition to driving while under the influence, you broke a law, acted in/or were negligent during the time you operated a motor vehicle

Under California's Vehicle Code 23153, you must have: (1) acted in a negligent manner, and (2) in addition to driving under the influence, you broke a law. By definition, your act of negligence caused injury to another person.

Consider the following example:

Jan, buzzed from drinking at a party, begins her drive home when Bethany rear-ends her. Bethany breaks her ankle in the accident. Prosecutors discuss charging Jan with a DUI causing injury. Jan's attorney, however, talks the prosecutor down to a charge of misdemeanor DUI. Jan did not cause the accident or the injury to Bethany.

If a speeding Jan,  while driving buzzed,  had rear-ended Bethany and Bethany suffered a broken ankle, a 'DUI with injury' charge, under California's Vehicle Code 23153, would be forthcoming because:

  1. She was driving under the influence,
  2. Speeding while driving under the influence and
  3. Because of her high speed, she rear-ended Bethany, causing her injury

3. Vehicle Code 23153 VC: Punishment, sentencing and penalties

California 'DUI with injury' punishments vary and depend on

  1. The facts surrounding your specific case, and
  2. You have a prior DUI, less than 10-years old, which puts you in the "look back" period. A "priorable" DUI, under California's DUI offenses will increase your punishment with each conviction. (Priorable means an offense that may be used against you in the conviction of another case)

A third non-injury DUI is a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code 23152. A third 'DUI with injury' under this code makes it a felony offense.

Misdemeanor and Felony penalties under California Vehicle Code 23153


  • Three to five years of probation 
  • No more than one year in prison  
  • Fines of $390 to $5000 
  • Court ordered drug or alcohol educational program lasting 9, 18 or 30-months. (California DUI School) and approved by the court
  • Your driving privileges revoked for 3-years
  • You must make restitution to all the injured parties

Felony penalties

  • Up to 4-years in a California State Prison
  • If any victims suffered great bodily harm an additional 3-6 years in prison  
  • An additional 1-year sentence for each person who suffers any injury for up to 3-years total 
  • If anyone other than you suffers great bodily injury, you receive a 'strike' as mandated by California's Three Strikes Law.  
  • Fines of $1000 to $5000
  • Mandated DUI school for 18 to 30-months
  • Three years status as a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) 
  • Your California driving privilege revoked for 5-years  

4. Can you fight the charges of DUI Causing Injury?

Defense attorneys defending you against a California Vehicle Code 23152 violation treat the charges as any other DUI charge. The attorney will try to prove (1) you were not under the influence while driving and (2) the California DUI breath or blood test results were inaccurate.  

Your attorney will investigate the procedures used during your arrest and the administering of a breath test. He will ensure all the procedures met with California mandated law.

Using an accident reconstruction expert, your attorney will determine if the injury causing accident was actually your fault. This independent evaluation probes the scene of the accident and an independent investigator speaks with witnesses who the investigating officers may not have spoken.

While investigating the scene, the reconstruction expert will take into consideration:

  • weather conditions,
  • the condition of the roadway,
  • assess the damage to all the vehicles involved
  • take into account any evidence relevant to your case

The work of an independent accident reconstruction expert becomes critical when the investigating officers base their opinion on the fact someone had been drinking. Once the officers know a victim was drinking, they automatically blame that person and write their reports to reflect that. The evidence will not always point blame at the person who had drank as officers had presumed.

DUI defense attorneys find that Vehicle Code 23153 charges will drop to Vehicle Code 23152 charges when the prosecution fails to prove the accident was your fault and the injuries caused were not due to your negligence. The charges drop to the misdemeanor, driving under the influence.

5. Offenses related to Vehicle Code 23153 DUI Causing Injury

Prosecutors can charge you with several offenses in addition to (along with) violating Vehicle Code 23153, 'DUI with injury'. A list of the variety of other offenses prosecutors may choose follows.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated (California Penal Code 191.5)

Here are the two circumstances under which prosecutors will charge you in violation of PC 191.5, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated: 

  1. If you negligently cause the death of another person or break a law in addition to driving under the influence, or
  2. You commit an act that will likely result in the death of another person in addition to driving under the influence '.

Felony Hit and Run Involving Injury or Death, California Vehicle Code 20001

If you refuse to (1) remain at an accident scene and provide information or (2) do not assist those needing medical attention, prosecutors will charge you with California Vehicle Code 20001, felony hit and run involving injury or death.

These requirements apply regardless of liability. Even when not dealing with DUI causing injury at which time your fault is implied.

Child Endangerment, California Penal Code 273a

If you have a child passenger at the time of your DUI offense, prosecutors will charge you with a violation of Penal Code 273a, child endangerment. You face up to 6-years in a California State prison if convicted of felony child endangerment.

For further explanation of California DUI laws, or need to discuss your case with one of our attorneys specializing in drunk driving defense, contact the California Justice Law Group