As you might be aware, laws regarding driving under the influence (DUI) are harsh because this offense shows disregard for human safety, life, and health. While all DUI crimes come with severe consequences, those involving bodily injury or death are the most severe cases and can make you subject to a lengthy prison term and a hefty fine.
At The Law Offices of Martin Hart in Las Vegas, Nevada, we have significant experience on aggravated DUI cases, especially those involving bodily injury or death. Ensure you discuss your DUI case with an attorney soonest possible to determine the best way to effectively fight or reduce the aggravated DUI charge against you as you continue with your everyday life for the best possible outcome.
Understanding DUI Causing Substantial Injury or Death
While a DUI charge is generally chargeable as a misdemeanor under the law, when you allegedly cause bodily injury or death, the prosecutor will file your case as a Class B felony which carries severe consequences under the revised statute (NRS.484C.430).
Apart from the lengthy prison term, you might also lose your driving privileges after serving your sentence for a significant period because the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) suspends your driving license.
Even if you don’t have a prior DUI conviction history, you violate NRS.484C.430 when you drive under the influence and thereby cause an accident leading to injuries or death while having blood to the alcohol content (BAC) of:
- 08% or above as a regular driver
- 02% or above as an under 21 driver
- 04% or above as a commercial driver
The victim of the alleged DUI case causing substantial bodily injury or death could be a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorist, or driver of another vehicle. For the sake of this statute, a significant or substantial bodily injury could be any of the following:
- Bone fractures
- Organ damage
- Serious bums
- Chronic pain
- Loss of consciousness
To increase your possibilities or chances of achieving the best outcome following an accident involving death or substantial injury of another individual regardless of whether you were DUI or not, you should do the following:
- Remain at the accident scene
- Call 911
- Take pictures of the accident scene, including traffic signs and the road terrain.
- Talk to a few eyewitnesses to the incident and ask for their contact numbers if possible.
- Consult a competent and experienced criminal defense attorney soonest possible
To prove you guilty for violating NRS.484C.430, the prosecutor must demonstrate to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You were driving under the influence
- There was a substantial bodily injury or death of another person due to your negligent actions
How to Fight an Aggravated DUI Causing or Injury or Death
When facing a DUI causing a substantial injury or death charge under NRS.484C.430, your attorney will have to build a two-pronged legal defense to counter this charge. That means he/she must fight the underlying DUI charge against you first and then fight the allegations that your actions led to a substantial bodily injury or death of another person.
Depending on the specific evidence the prosecutor has against you in this case, your defense attorney can apply the following legal defense tactics to fight the underlying DUI charge against you:
Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) is a Not a Reliable Way to Prove Impairment
The most common and applicable legal defense tactic to fight a DUI charge is by challenging the reliability of FSTs in proving impairment at the DUI checkpoint. The standard FSTs like one legal stand or walk and turn test that law enforcement officers use to determine whether you are driving under the influence are prone to errors due to the following possible reasons:
- Poor or irregular land terrain
- The officer instructions were incorrect
- Poor vision, especially if the incident happens at night
Your Breath/Blood Test Results Were Incorrect or Erroneous
While the officers will convince you these test results are correct and accurate, your defense attorney can challenge the validity of the results because they are prone to several errors. The court will consider that possible if the officer conducting the DUI investigation fails to follow the correct procedure and guidelines for collecting and storing your breath/blood samples.
Rising Blood Alcohol Was the Cause of the High BAC
Rising blood alcohol would be a valid and viable defense argument in a DUI case if your BAC were at a legal limit when you were driving. However, the arresting law enforcement officers did the chemical test one or two hours later after the incident.
If your attorney can provide evidentiary information to support this defense argument, the jury might drop or reduce the DUI case against you to an alternative related, less severe offense.
A reliable attorney can show the jury you did not have the criminal intent to drive under the influence or cause an accident leading to injury or death, using “involuntary intoxication” as a legal defense. That would be possible if another person forces or tricks you into drinking alcohol or taking a drug substance capable of affecting your mental and physical ability to drive like a sober, cautious driver.
After countering the DUI charge against you, the best strategy your defense attorney will use to fight criminal allegations against you for allegedly causing bodily injury or death of another person will depend on the available pieces of evidence the prosecutor has against you. Some of these pieces of evidence include:
- Medical records
- Surveillance videos
- Eyewitness testimonies
- Police reports
- Accident reconstruction specialist testimony
- GPS records
If you face allegations of DUI causing significant injury or death of another person, it doesn’t mean you will automatically be guilty of the charge. A skilled attorney can use the prosecutor’s evidence against you like the ones mentioned above and various legal defense arguments to convince the jury or the judge to dismiss or reduce the criminal charge against you to a less severe offense.
Potential Sentence for a DUI Causing Significant Injury or Death Conviction
As mentioned above, DUI causing significant injury or death under NRS.484C.430 is a Class B felony offense under the law, and a conviction can make you subject to the following possible penalties:
- A fine ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the judge’s discretion or jury with jurisdiction over the case.
- A state prison term of two to twenty years
- Revocation of your driving license for a maximum of three years
If you had a passenger child under 15 in the vehicle during the arrest, it would heighten the above sentence for a DUI case leading to substantial injury or death. The jury will consider a passenger under 15 as an aggravating factor when coming up with an appropriate mandatory fine or prison term for violating NRS.484C.430.
As a condition for reinstating your driving privileges after a conviction for violating NRS.484C.430, you may have to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in your vehicle for three years. An IID is typically a device that works like a breathalyzer, and the court will require you to install it in your vehicle to prevent it from starting when the device detects alcohol in your breath vapor.
When you choose to install an IID to continue driving, it will be a misdemeanor offense when you tamper with it or drive your vehicle without it, and it’s punishable by:
- Incarceration term in the county jail for thirty days to 6 months
- A fine ranging from $500 to $1,000
Remember, if you had three prior conviction records for DUI, the prosecutor would file your subsequent DUI offense, causing significant bodily injury or death as vehicular homicide, a Class A felony, carrying harsher penalties.
Crimes Related to DUI Causing Injury or Death Under NRS.484C.430
Since a conviction for violating NRS.484C.430 is a felony with severe, long-lasting consequences, a reliable attorney will seek to reduce this offense to an alternative less severe misdemeanor charge if it is impossible to convince the jury to dismiss the case.
Your defense attorney might succeed in convincing the jury to reduce this aggravated DUI charge by proving beyond a reasonable doubt either:
- You were not DUI, or
- There was no causation or correlation between the victim’s injuries/death and your actions.
Reducing a felony DUI to a related alternative misdemeanor offense is possible as long as this is not your third DUI case in seven years, which is a felony regardless of whether there is substantial injuries/death or not. Most criminal defense attorneys will strive to reduce a felony DUI causing injury or death to the following related and less sophisticated crimes:
According to NRS 484B.657, you commit vehicular manslaughter when you cause the death of another person while driving an automobile due to “simple negligence.” For the sake of this statute, “simple negligence” means any action you make when driving that shows disregard for human life and health because a sober, cautious driver in your position/situation couldn’t behave the same way.
Below are a few examples of negligent acts while on the wheel that can turn out deadly, leading to vehicular manslaughter charges:
- Kissing while driving
- Eating while driving
- Speeding above the legal limit for that designated area
- Breaking too fast
- Drunk driving
- Texting while driving
- Failing to yield at any stop sign or running a red signal
The judge can reduce a DUI causing injury or death under NRS.484C.430 to a violation of NRS 484B.657 as long your defense attorney can prove that you were not driving under the influence before the accident incident. Generally, vehicular manslaughter is punishable as a misdemeanor offense and will make you subject to the following consequences:
- Up to six months jail term
- A maximum of a one-year suspension of your driving license
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
Reckless Driving Causing Injury
If the victim of the alleged accident didn’t die, the prosecutor could charge a violation of NRS.484C.430 as reckless driving causing injury under NRS.484B.653. Your criminal defense attorney can raise mitigating argument and evidence to convince the prosecutor to charge you with this alternative related charge if your case involves:
- Driving above the designed speed limit
- Road rage
- Ignoring traffic signs
- Disregarding police officer’s order to pull over or stop
According to NRS.484B.653, reckless driving involves the operation or driving of an automobile with wilful and malicious disregard for the safety and health of other people and property. When you cause substantial injuries to another person while driving recklessly, the prosecutor can charge you with a Class B felony, punishable by less severe penalties than a violation of NRS.484C.430.
A conviction for a felony reckless driving causing a substantial injury will attract the following consequences:
- A fine ranging from $2,000 to $5,000
- One to six years’ incarceration in the state prison
Unlike a conviction for DUI causing injury or death, a conviction for reckless driving causing bodily injury does not count as a prior DUI conviction to enhance your sentence if you happen to face a DUI charge in the future.
Potential employers are also less likely to dismiss your job application for having a reckless driving conviction on your record than having a DUI conviction record involving the injury or death of another person.
Unless your attorney can manage to convince the jury to reduce your violation of NRS.484C.430 to a misdemeanor offense, it would be impossible to seal this felony criminal record after conviction. An experienced defense attorney will be aware of this and will aggressively fight for your legal rights to dismiss or reduce your alleged DUI causing injury or death case to a less severe offense.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The success of your DUI case leading to substantial injuries or death of another person will depend on how soon you seek an attorney’s services for legal assistance and representation. We invite you to call The Law Offices of Martin Hart at 702-380-4278, wherever you are in Las Vegas, Nevada if you face a DUI causing injury or death charge.
Our reliable criminal defense attorneys will appear in every court proceeding on your behalf to fight for your constitutional rights and interests for an appealing and desirable outcome from this life-altering criminal case.