The recent case of a Colorado man acquitted of assault in DUI injury case, but convicted of lesser included offenses, including DUI, illustrates some of the more severe legal pitfalls that may accompany a DUI charge. The case linked above likely grabbed headlines because of the suspect’s criminal past. Defendant Charles Limbrick was convicted of killing his mother in 1988. But the attention his case has received shines a needed spotlight on legal realities that lesser known defendants face on a daily basis.
Vehicular Assault and Possible Defenses
In Colorado a person may be charged with vehicular assault if they drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and if this conduct is “the proximate cause of a serious bodily injury to another.” By the text of the statute, there are three ways to fight this charge.
- The driver was not “under the influence.” This defense often requires expert scientific testimony to rebut the results of chemical tests performed by the state. If a jury can be persuaded of this defense, it has the advantage of also negating the underlying DUI charge. However, it may be that even if a driver was not impaired, they were nevertheless negligent and still owe civil damages to the injured party. This defense also has the disadvantage of being very difficult to prove, depending on the test results. Generally, the higher the blood alcohol concentration, the stronger the presumption of intoxication. However, where it is a close call, the state must show that the defendant at the time of driving was “substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, of exercising clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.”
- The resulting injury does not rise to the level of “serious.” A serious bodily injury for legal purposes is an injury leading to permanent disfigurement or disability. In the case discussed above, this is how the jury ultimately acquitted the defendant. They determined that the lacerations to the woman’s face were not “serious” because they did not leave her with permanent disfigurement or disability. Negating this element of the charge will get a driver acquitted of assault charges, but will not in itself negate the underlying charge of DUI or reckless driving.
- The driver’s intoxication was not the “proximate cause” of the accident. Where the defendant is indisputably intoxicated and the other individual is indisputably injured, the last available defense is that the defendant’s intoxication was not the “proximate” or legal cause of the accident. Just because a person happens to have a certain blood alcohol concentration while driving does not mean they were the cause of the accident. The law requires that the person’s intoxication caused them to perform an act of recklessness that caused the accident. This is not always the case. Sometimes, a person may be driving safely despite their blood alcohol level and other factors may cause the crash. Mounting this defense requires intensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident, as well as a thorough knowledge of the Colorado Vehicle Code.
Get the Help of a Colorado Drunk Driving Attorney to Fight these Serious Charges
If you have been arrested or charged with vehicular assault stemming from a DUI, you have a lot to lose. The stakes are too high to try to face the justice system alone, and prosecutors are very unlikely to cut you a deal simply because you show remorse. You need the help of experienced, knowledgeable DUI attorneys who will fight for you. The lawyers at Tiftickjian Law Firm, P.C. know how to analyze your case, mount the best defense, and employ expert testimony to get you the most favorable possible outcome, no matter how serious the charges. Accidents happen. Don’t let them result in the loss of your freedom. Call us today.