You may remember that, earlier this year, a social media video showed a now 21-year-old Los Angeles man using his feet to drive an SUV on a busy Saugus road. Moments after the social media video was recorded, the SUV was involved in an accident that injured five people. According to reports, the SUV veered from its lane of traffic over a double yellow line and was broadsided by another vehicle. Most of the reported injuries were minor. However, one victim did suffer a significant chest injury.
The now infamous “foot driver” has been arrested for drunk driving after police investigated the crash.
Age and Drunk Driving in San Diego
When police arrived on the scene of the accident both drivers were tested for drugs and alcohol. The driver of the SUV tested negative for drugs but had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 percent. In California, it is illegal for a driver under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC exceeding .02 percent.
At the time of his arrest, the SUV driver was 21 years old. However, back in February when the accident occurred, the SUV driver was only 20. As a result, he was unlawfully operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Could the SUV driver have escaped drunk driving charges if the accident had happened after he turned 21? Not necessarily.
Per Se Intoxication vs. Reasonable Suspicion of Intoxication
In California, there are two situations in which you can be arrested for drunk driving.
The first, defined in Vehicle Code 23152(b), is when your BAC exceeds the legal limit. For adults, the limit is .08 percent. For drivers under the age of 21, the limit is .02 percent. If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), the limit is .04 percent. Any time your BAC is above the limit, you can be arrested for per se intoxication.
The second, defined in Vehicle Code 23152(a), is when police have reasonable suspicion to believe that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This type of DUI does not require you to have a certain amount of alcohol in your system. Instead, it is a subjective assessment made by police that you are unfit to drive safely. Specifically, “under the influence” means that your “mental or physical abilities are so impaired that [you are] no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.”
Since you can be arrested for DUI even if your BAC is not above the legal limit, the SUV driver would likely still be facing criminal charges if he were 21 at the time of the accident.
DUI Causing Great Bodily Harm
The SUV driver is not just being charged with a straightforward misdemeanor DUI. Since a victim suffered a serious injury in the crash, the SUV driver is facing charges for DUI causing great bodily harm. This is a much more serious DUI crime that is charged as a felony.
The penalties for DUI causing great bodily harm can be incredibly harsh. The specific consequences that a person will face will depend on the extent of harm suffered by the victim and the driver’s criminal record.
DUI causing great bodily harm is punishable by:
- 16 months – 16 years in a California state prison
- $5,000 in criminal fines
- Loss of your driver’s license for 5 years
- Community service, and/or
- DUI School for 30 months.
Fighting DUI Charges in Los Angeles
The SUV driver has likely contracted an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney for assistance with his defense. The state must be able to prove that he is guilty of the offense by a reasonable doubt. In this case, they will likely rely on the social media video, breathalyzer results, and eyewitness testimony. The defendant’s attorney will argue any defense that helps to (a) cast doubt on his guilt and (b) attacks the validity of the state’s evidence. A strong defense can help a defendant secure a favorable plea deal or even get the charges dropped altogether.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Los Angeles do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center for help. We will review your alleged crime, explain your rights as a defendant, and determine the best defense for your case.