If you have been involved in an auto accident, the last thing on your mind is likely having to defend yourself against criminal charges. Unfortunately, some drivers find themselves charged with DUI or other crimes resulting from police investigations of their collisions.
Law enforcement is typically called to the scene of injury accidents and collisions that have occurred on busy streets or freeways, where secondary accidents or traffic jams are a possibility. Officers will make observations at the scene and will take note if a driver seems to be displaying any indications that he or she may be intoxicated or under the influence of a drug (even a prescription medication). If an officer can establish probable cause at the scene that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the driver could be taken into custody (provided he or she is not seriously injured) and a breath or blood test may be administered.
Even if a driver is seriously injured in an auto accident, a blood test may be administered if law enforcement suspects that he or she was driving under the influence. The results of a breath or blood test may then lead to criminal charges for a standard DUI or even more serious offenses, such as DUI causing injury or vehicular manslaughter. These can be charged as felonies, with sentences that can add up to years in state prison as well as heavy fines.
Criminal Charges from Fatal and Injury Accidents
When a person is seriously injured or dies in a traffic accident, a police investigation will ensue. Police investigators will conduct a thorough review of the accident scene, documenting, gathering and processing evidence and interviewing witnesses and drivers to begin to create an idea of what occurred. Using debris patterns, skid mark locations and measurements, damage on vehicles and other physical evidence, police investigators can determine what sequence of events led to the collision and even how the drivers responded to the impending crash (when and if they braked, whether they attempted to swerve to avoid the accident, etc.) Investigators can even determine the rate of speed of each vehicle.
All of the information gathered in an auto accident investigation will be used by investigators to draw conclusions regarding the cause of the accident. Blood or breath test results may also be included in their analysis, and if law enforcement believes that a driver who had an illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or abilities that were impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident, that driver may face DUI charges. If law enforcement also determines that the driver caused the collision, the driver may face more serious charges of DUI causing injury or even vehicular manslaughter.
In the face of a police investigation and the seemingly infallible conclusions drawn by investigators, it may be difficult to imagine how you could avoid a conviction. You must remember that even experienced officers may make mistakes. Law enforcement personnel may violate protocol or your constitutional rights in their efforts to gather sufficient evidence for the prosecuting attorney to pursue a conviction.
As Orange County DUI attorneys, we at the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry are dedicated to helping drivers face and challenge arrests and criminal charges related to DUI, including DUI causing injury or death. We know what strategies to pursue and how to conduct our own investigations that can uncover errors or misconduct that could weaken or invalidate the prosecution's case. To learn more about our firm and how we may be able to help you, please contact us today!