It is no secret that the consequences of a Colorado DUI conviction can be severe. You face punishments that can include the temporary loss of your license, heavy fines, court-mandated treatment programs, and even jail in many circumstances. However, when a DUI results in serious bodily injury to another individual, the need for legal assistance can be even greater as the possible consequences are even more serious. One additional charge an individual can face in some DUI circumstances where serious injury occurs is vehicular assault. Defined in Colorado Revised Statute 18-3-205, a vehicular assault charge could result in a conviction for a class five or class six felony depending on whether the proximate cause of the accident was due to being under the influence or a result of reckless driving behavior.
Understanding Vehicular Assault
State law defines vehicular assault as being committed when “a person operates or drives a motor vehicle in a reckless manner, and this conduct is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another.” The statute also includes driving under the influence of drugs that results in serious bodily injury to another as qualifying as vehicular assault.
The law further defines the crime of vehicular assault as a strict liability crime. While most crimes require both a bad act, as well as, a guilty mind and knowingly committing the crime, strict liability crimes do not require the latter. In other words, you do not have to actually mean to commit or know you are committing the crime in order to be convicted of committing it. It must only be proven that an individual’s reckless driving behavior or their inability to safely operate a vehicle due to being under the influence led to the results that caused the accident and subsequent injuries to the other person.
Classifying the Crime
As with most crimes, vehicular assault is classified depending on the severity of the offense. In general, it typically results in felony charges that are Class 4 or Class 5.
A Class 5 felony charge for vehicular assault is very serious. Typically, these charges are reserved for reckless driving incidents not involving alcohol and/or drugs. A conviction on this charge can result in a prison sentence of one to three years, but a judge may increase that sentencing to a maximum of six years if significant aggravating circumstances were part of the crime.
While the consequences of conviction for a Class 5 felony charge are serious, the potential consequences of conviction for a Class 4 felony can be even more significant. Class 4 felonies apply to vehicular assault that occurs while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Class 4 felonies are considered more serious, and as such a conviction can result in two to six years in prison. As with Class 5 felonies, if a judge finds significant aggravating circumstances related to the charge, then an individual who is convicted of such a crime can be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.
The Importance of Legal Assistance
As you can imagine, vehicular assault is a serious criminal charge. If you are facing Colorado vehicular assault charges, it is important to work with a criminal defense attorney that understands the important nuances involved in this area of the law. Jay Tiftickjian has written extensively on defense approaches related to Colorado DUIs and understands how much is at stake for individuals facing these types of charges. If you are facing vehicular assault charges, including those related to a DUI or DWAI or even reckless driving, contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation and find out more information about the charges you are facing as well as what options might be available to you in establishing your defense.
(image courtesy of Jake Blucker)