In every state, it's illegal to drive when you have a blood alcohol concentration - BAC - of 0.08 percent or higher. The normal DUI penalty you are facing increases a lot if you actually have an accident while you're driving. If anyone is hurt, the penalties are even worse. The actual consequences depend on where you live, because all state laws are different.
Accidents May Be Harder to Prove
In some states, it is more difficult for law enforcement to charge you with an increased DUI charge if you cause an accident while driving. For a basic DUI, for example, a police officer often can take you into custody if you just seem intoxicated. But to charge you with causing an accident, the officer might also have to prove that your BAC was 0.08 percent or higher - and this always requires a breath or blood test. In other states, the police officer must prove not only that you were intoxicated, but also that your intoxication actually caused the accident.
Previous DUIs Count
With all DUI offenses, the penalties are usually much less if it's your first time. Sometimes, having any previous DUI conviction on your record might increase your penalty for causing an accident while driving under the influence, even if your previous conviction did not involve an accident or injury.
Penalties Can Be Severe
In many states, it is a felony to cause a serious injury while driving under the influence. In other areas, DUIs involving accidents may be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on whether you ever had a DUI conviction in the past. Most states will sentence a drunk driver who causes an injury to jail time. This sentence can range from a few days in a county jail to several years in a state prison.
There are almost always fines, and you'll probably lose your driving privileges for anywhere from a few months to several years. You'll probably have to attend a DUI school.
The Injured Have Rights
All states can order "restitution" - money you must pay to the victim - if you hurt someone while driving under the influence. Victims and their families also have the right to attend your trial and speak at your sentencing.
A Criminal Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding DUI vehicular accidents and injuries is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal lawyer.