Any drunk driving accusation is a serious matter. However, the stakes get especially high if a driver is accused of drunk driving after causing an accident.
Specifically, under Colorado law, authorities can charge a driver with an additional crime in addition to drunk driving if the driver causes an accident and a person either dies or suffers a serious bodily injury as a result.
In the case of a death, the driver might face charges of vehicular homicide. Generally speaking, a person can go to prison for up to 12 years for this offense. A person who causes a serious injury might be convicted of vehicular assault and face up to 6 years in prison.
Additional penalties like suspensions and fines may also apply after an accident allegedly related to drunk driving.
Vehicular homicide and vehicular assault cases are complicated
In addition to the possible penalties, both vehicular assault and vehicular homicide charges are serious because, when related to drunk driving, they are strict liability offenses. Basically, what this means is that a person does not have to intend to kill or hurt anyone or even to cause an accident. The facts that the accident occurred and that a person was injured or killed are enough to mean the driver can be held criminally liable. On a related point, whether the person injured or killed is the driver’s own passenger makes no difference in these cases.
These charges are still complex, and there are a number of defenses potentially available.
For one, police and prosecutors will have to prove that the driver was legally under the influence, much like in any other DUI case. Doing so would involve questions like whether officers properly conducted an investigation and whether the results of any test were accurate.
Furthermore, for these charges to stick, the government will have to prove that the cause of the accident was the driver’s operating under the influence.In other words, if the accident was not the drunk driver’s fault, then the serious offenses of vehicular assault or vehicular homicide are effectively off the table.
After drunk driving accident involving a serious injury or fatality, a resident of the Denver area will want to understand his or her legal options. An experienced attorney can help them understand how the law applies to the unique facts of their case.