Injury and property damage caused by drunk driving is not an unusual occurrence in the United States, unfortunately. In 2010 alone, the economic price tag of alcohol-related crashes totaled $44 billion. In 2018, 29 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities were caused by drunk driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Being charged with driving under the influence is a very serious matter. If you’re involved in an automobile accident while under the influence of alcohol, you will likely face more serious legal consequences than if you were arrested for drunk driving only. When an automobile accident is involved with impaired driving, you may be charged with an aggravated DUI. Many factors, including which state the accident occurred in, will be considered when your case is brought to court. Was someone injured? Was there extensive property damage? Did you endanger someone else in your vehicle? Was the collision your fault?
Some states’ drinking and driving laws don’t specify stronger penalties for aggravated DUI offenders who cause property damage or injury, and other states may upgrade the DUI charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. You can also expect to receive more severe treatment from prosecutors and judges if you’re charged with an aggravated DUI. Chances of a favorable plea bargain are reduced, and judges will usually hand out longer sentences if additional damages or injury occurs. If the automobile accident results in a fatality, however, you will most likely receive a jail sentence.
A 2015 survey compared the experiences of drivers who received standard DUIs (DUIs without accidents) to drivers who received aggravated DUIs (involving property damage or injury). The survey showed:
- Costs were, on average, $1,000 more expensive for drivers convicted of a DUI that involved a collision.
- Prosecutors were 7 percent more likely to file charges against those who had a DUI involving a collision.
- Aggravated DUI conviction rates are substantially higher, with an overall conviction rate of 91 percent as opposed to 66 percent for those with standard DUIs.