Have You Been Charged with Serious Injury by a Vehicle in Georgia?
Georgia has implemented a number of severe penalties for those who drive under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. However, when aggravating circumstances are involved, the punishments intensify considerably. One such situation is when a person causes serious injury while driving under the influence. These types of accidents will be grounds for an elevated charge that is punishable by a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of 15 years. If you or someone you know has been involved in a DUI accident that resulted in a serious injury, your rights and future are at risk. It is imperative that you take quick action to work with a seasoned Georgia Serious Injury by Vehicle Attorney. We have the skills and resources to protect your freedom and future.
Serious Injury by Vehicle Charges in Georgia
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-394 reads as follows:
Whoever, without malice, shall cause bodily harm to another by depriving him of a member of his body, by rendering a member of his body useless, by seriously disfiguring his body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless by reckless driving or DUI shall be guilty of the crime of serious injury by vehicle.
A person could be charged with multiple counts of serious injury by vehicle if several individuals were seriously injured in the accident. Unlike other offenses, these counts will not merge even though they all arose out of the same instance.
However, a person cannot be convicted of both DUI/reckless driving and serious injury by vehicle. This would violate double jeopardy. While they can't be convicted for those crimes together, they could still be convicted of any other underlying traffic offenses that led to the injury. These can include following too closely, failure to maintain lane, or speeding as they are lesser included offenses to serious injury by vehicle.
What Does Serious Injury Mean in Georgia?
Georgia courts have broadly interpreted what constitutes a serious injury. Some injuries that were understood to be severe enough to justify a conviction for serious injury by vehicle include loss of vision in one eye, blurry vision, broken ribs, and severe bruising.
Georgia case law has established that there is no requirement that a body part of a victim is permanently rendered useless to be a serious injury. Keef v. State, 220 Ga. App. 134, (1996).
Furthermore, the serious injury can be to the other driver, passenger, or a pedestrian. Passenger includes people in both your vehicle and the other vehicle.
Georgia Case Law
The court found sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for serious injury by vehicle in Fitzpatrick v. State. In that case, the accused, Fitzpatrick, told an officer and a nurse that he was driving at the time of the accident and he was getting ready to make a left turn onto the highway when the accident occurred. Fitzpatrick told the officer at the scene that he had been driving and he was not wearing pants at the time of the crash. The victim was rushed to the hospital and suffered injuries to his leg that rendered it virtually useless for months. During the trial, Fitzpatrick claimed that he was not the one driving the vehicle and that the victim's injuries did not fall within the provisions of the serious injury statute. However, the court found there was sufficient evidence that Fitzpatrick was the one driving the vehicle and based on his admissions, that he was driving in the car. Furthermore, the court found that the victim's injuries did fall within the scope of a serious injury. Therefore, he was convicted of serious injury by vehicle. 339 Ga. App. 135, (2016).
Another case where the accused was convicted of serious injury by a vehicle in Georgia is Bray v. State. When officers received word that a truck was stolen and to be on the lookout, they spotted Bray driving the car in Athens. A police chase ensued, and Bray crossed over the median of 316 and hit a vehicle head-on that was traveling in the right direction. The car was occupied by an elderly married couple who went to the hospital. Bray fled on foot and when he was captured, admitted to using methamphetamines, and that he had dope in his pocket when he was apprehended. Bray argued at the trial that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of two counts of serious injury by vehicle. However, the court disagreed. The court found that Bray drove his car in reckless disregard for the safety of others. Furthermore, Bray argued that the victims were not seriously disfigured. The court disagreed and found that the wife's head laceration apart from her fractures could constitute serious disfigurement. The court also found that the bruising to the husband's ribs and his rib fractures rose to the level of serious disfigurement. Therefore, Bray was convicted of two counts of serious injury by a vehicle. 330 Ga. App. 768, (2015).
The Penalty for Serious Injury by Vehicle in Georgia
A person convicted under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-394 will be guilty of a felony and will be punished by a prison term between one and fifteen years.
The consequences of a felony conviction extend beyond prison and fines. It can make everyday life difficult. Having a felony on your record can make it difficult to obtain housing, credit, or employment. Because of the intense consequences, it is critical to hire a Georgia Serious Injury by Vehicle Attorney.
Defenses to a Serious Injury by Vehicle Charge in Georgia
The law leans heavily in the State's favor in a serious injury by vehicle case. However, you have rights throughout the process including during the arrest. If any of those rights were violated, you have defenses. Because DUI is a predicate offense to serious injury by vehicle, if there is a defense to the DUI charge, then you also have a defense to the serious injury charge. If the prosecution cannot convict you of a DUI, then you cannot be convicted of serious injury. Our office has over 50 combined years of experience in defending DUI cases. We are familiar with the science behind field sobriety testing as well as the state-administered chemical test. Our team of serious injury by vehicle lawyers in Georgia know how to defend your case and win. We work closely with investigators, medical experts, and field sobriety experts to help challenge the State's case against you.
Our Georgia Serious Injury by Vehicle Lawyers are prepared to represent you at every stage in the criminal process. We frequently consult with expert witnesses that can reconstruct the accident to demonstrate what may have happened. We are also experts in field sobriety, blood testing, and breathalyzer analyses and can uncover the inaccuracies of the chemical testing performed. Take the first steps to avoid prison time and a license suspension by calling us now a free case evaluation. Call now.