Enhanced Penalties for DUI Accidents, Injuries, and Deaths

How being involved in a crash can increase the penalties for a DUI conviction.

By , Attorney

The penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) are generally severe. But when a DUI involves an accident—particularly if there's property damage or someone is injured or killed—the penalties are likely to be even more serious.

Enhanced Penalties for DUI Accidents

Each state has laws that set the penalties ranges for DUI convictions. Generally, the possible penalties increase depending on the number or prior DUI convictions the driver has and the specific circumstances of the current offense.

Accident-Related Sentencing Enhancements

The DUI laws of many states impose enhanced penalties if a DUI involves certain aggregating factors. Accidents, injuries, and deaths are among the most common aggravating factors that can lead to DUI penalties enhancements. Here are several examples:

  • New Hampshire. A standard first DWI (driving while intoxicated) in New Hampshire is a class B misdemeanor and carries $500 to $1,200 in fines but no jail time. But if a first DWI involves serious injuries, the offense is a class B felony and carries $1,000 to $4,000 in fines and 14 days to seven years in jail.
  • New Mexico. When a DUI involves an injury accident in New Mexico, it increases the mandatory jail time by 48 hours for a first offense, 96 hours for a second offense, and 60 days for a third offense
  • In Kentucky, DUI offenders who cause an injury accident must serve double the normal jail time.

Lots of other states have penalties enhancements for DUIs involving accidents. And while the laws of each state are a little different, penalties enhancements are normally triggered by property damage, injuries, and deaths rather than just the accident itself.

Plea Bargaining and Sentencing Discretion

In states that don't have accident-related DUI enhancements built into the law, DUI offenders who cause collisions are still likely to face more severe penalties than would otherwise be the case.

The penalty ranges for DUI convictions are set by state law. However, the sentence that's imposed within these ranges comes from the judge or is the result of plea bargaining with the prosecution. When a DUI involves an accident with injuries, deaths, or substantial property damage, prosecutors aren't likely to offer favorable plea deals and judges aren't likely to be lenient with sentencing. As a result, DUI offenders who cause accidents tend to end up with penalties that are at the higher end of the possible penalty range.

Vehicular Assault and Homicide Charges

Drunk drivers who are involved in collisions resulting in injuries or deaths may face criminal charges in addition to the DUI charge. Depending on the situation, the driver could be looking at vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, or murder charges. Convictions for these offenses can result in penalties that are often far more severe than those for a DUI conviction.

Get in Contact with a DUI Lawyer

Anyone who's arrested for driving under the influence should get in contact with an experienced DUI lawyer, especially when the DUI involved an accident. A qualified DUI attorney can help you decide on the best course of action in your case.

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