Felony DUI with Personal Injury
A first time DUI in California may be prosecuted as a felony if a traffic accident was involved and a third party suffered personal injuries. California Vehicle Code section 23153 allows a felony or a misdemeanor filing in these circumstances. Normally, prosecutors will file felony DUI charges if the injuries are more than minor involving some hospital treatment. However, in addition to the usual issues in any DUI case there are additional elements that must be proven if the defendant is to be convicted of a violation of vehicle code section 23153.
In addition to proof of driving while over the limit or impaired, the prosecution must prove that the defendant did an act forbidden by law, or neglected a duty imposed by law, and this act or neglect proximately caused the bodily injury to the third party. If the defendant did not cause the traffic collision in any way and did nothing at all wrong other than driving while impaired, the defendant should only be prosecuted for a misdemeanor DUI per Vehicle Code Section 23152 even if the injuries to the victim are serious.
Frequently, the supporting additional offense is obvious, such as speeding or blowing through a red light causing a collision, but often the supporting offense may be minor such as failing to require an injured passenger to wear a seat belt. As long as the wrong done was the proximate cause of injury to another, it need not relate to how the defendant drove. In addition, the underlying wrong does not necessarily have to be an offense if the defendant neglects a duty imposed by law.
Weaving within the lane may not amount to an infraction but may involve neglecting a duty imposed by law; the duty to drive carefully and without negligence. As far as causation is concerned, the defendant's act or omission need not be the only or even the main cause of injury to a third party, so long as it was a substantial factor in causing the accident and thus the injuries suffered by the victim.