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If you are charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in or near the Los Angeles area, you must have the advice and representation of an experienced California DUI attorney, and you must contact that attorney immediately. DUI is the most frequently charged crime in this state.

Even a first DUI conviction can send you to jail, and in California, subsequent DUI convictions in some cases can actually send you to prison. But as dangerous as DUI is, and as severe as the consequences and penalties can be, you can still make it even worse.

What happens if someone drives under the influence, causes an accident with injuries, and flees the scene? Keep reading, and you’ll learn what can happen to a driver in this worst-case DUI accident scenario. You’ll also learn more about your rights if you are the person accused of DUI.

HOW CAN AN INNOCENT NIGHT OUT TURN DISASTROUS?

Every motorist should know by now how dangerous driving under the influence is. Across the U.S. in 2017, over 10,000 fatalities were reported in alcohol-related accidents, thousands more were severely injured, and law enforcement officers made more than 760,000 arrests for DUI.

Hit And Run

Let’s take a brief look at how the average person can get into some extremely serious legal trouble while drinking and driving. Unfortunately, cases like the following are far more common than you may think.

Let’s say that you meet some friends after work for a couple of drinks. You’re not really sure if you are above or below the “legal limit,” but you feel fine, so you decide that you are good to drive home.

Only blocks from your home, at an intersection that you drive through daily, a car suddenly appears from nowhere in front of you, and there is no way that you can brake in time or swerve to avoid a collision. Adrenaline and alcohol combine to cloud your thinking, and you panic.

WHY DO PEOPLE HIT AND THEN RUN?

Maybe you have no auto insurance, or maybe you have a prior DUI conviction. The crash doesn’t seem serious – your vehicle is still operable – so you think that probably no one has been hurt, and you make a run for it.

It’s understandable, and it happens frequently, but leaving the scene of an accident – for any reason whatsoever – is one of the worst driving decisions that you can make.

Hit-and-run cases are aggressively investigated, so even with no witnesses, the police will probably link you to the crime – and place you under arrest for hit-and-run – in a matter of hours.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN A DUI IS COMBINED WITH A HIT-AND-RUN?

If the police catch a driver fleeing the scene of an accident, once they have that driver in custody, they will almost certainly conduct a field sobriety test and/or a breathalyzer exam. It’s genuinely impossible to predict how a driver who is seized by panic will react after a traffic accident.

Nevertheless, every California driver must understand clearly that the consequences of a DUI charge combined with a hit-and-run charge can be exceedingly severe. A conviction on both charges will almost certainly mean time in prison. Your life will be permanently changed.

HOW DOES CALIFORNIA HANDLE DUI AND HIT-AND-RUN CASES?

California recognizes hit-and-run and DUI as separate, distinct crimes. It is against the law in California to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is also against the law to leave the scene of an accident – it does not matter who was at fault – that results in damages or injuries.

Driving under the influence may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If an intoxicated driver causes what the law calls “great bodily injury” to another person, the charge is a felony.

Los Angeles Dui Driver

Likewise, a hit-and-run may also be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If only property was damaged and no one was injured, the charge will probably be a misdemeanor, but if a hit-and-run driver has seriously injured another person, the charge will be a felony.

IF YOU’RE FOUND GUILTY OF BOTH CHARGES, WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT?

If an intoxicated driver commits a hit-and-run, and if someone else is seriously injured, it is almost certain that both the DUI and the hit-and-run will be prosecuted as felonies. Furthermore:

  1. Because hit-and-run and DUI are separate crimes, if you are convicted of both felonies, you may have to serve the sentences consecutively, so you would start your second felony sentence only after completing the first. That might mean years in prison.
  2. When a DUI charge and a hit-and-run charge arise from the same incident, and you are convicted on both felony counts, your sentences will probably be closer to the maximum sentences (rather than the minimums) established by California law.

If you injure someone and flee the scene of the accident, and if the state can prove it, you cannot expect any mercy or leniency from the court. A DUI hit-and-run incident that resulted in a fatality recently earned one Palm Desert woman a fifteen years-to-life sentence.

HOW CAN A DUI DEFENSE LAWYER HELP?

Several defenses are routinely offered by DUI attorneys on behalf of their clients:

  1. A DUI lawyer will examine the actions of the police to ensure that they acted legally when they stopped, questioned, and arrested you. If they didn’t, a DUI charge in some cases can be reduced or dismissed.
  2. A DUI attorney might also dispute the results of a blood or breathalyzer test or the credentials of the person who administered that test.

In some hit-and-run cases, you might be able to argue that you were not the person driving the vehicle, or you might be able to claim that you have been completely misidentified – and that you were not even present at the scene of the hit-and-run.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A GOOD DUI LAWYER?

In any of these types of cases, an experienced California DUI attorney can review the details of the charge against you and develop the most appropriate defense strategy for your particular case. Your attorney knows what will work for you in court – and what won’t.

If you are charged with hit-and-run or with driving under the influence, or if you are unlucky enough to face both charges at once, your future and your freedom will be at stake. You must have the advice and representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney – immediately.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.

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