A DUI case can easily become something much more serious if there is a serious injury or even a death involved. In those cases, a DUI charge is elevated to a charge of Vehicular Assault or Vehicular Homicide.
Any time a DUI or DUID is elevated to a charge of Vehicular Assault or Vehicular Homicide, the legal standard that applies is one of strict liability. What that means is that the prosecutor does not have to prove a specific mental state of the person committing the crime in order to obtain a conviction. Thus, whether or not the defendant intended to commit the crime is irrelevant. The prosecutor similarly does not need to prove that it was the driver’s intoxication that caused the bad driving, resulting in the collision.
There is, however, an affirmative defense to the charges of vehicular assault and vehicular homicide – an intervening or supervening cause. A supervening or intervening cause is something that supersedes the original wrongful act or omission in the chain of causation, breaking the chain of causation between the original and actual cause and the injury. In contrast, a proximate cause is one in which an injury would not have occurred without the defendant’s actions.
In a vehicular assault or homicide case, the prosecutor must establish that the injury was a probable consequence of the defendant’s criminal act, and not the result of some other cause in which the defendant didn’t have a part and could not have foreseen. Because this is an affirmative defense, once the defendant raises some credible evidence of the defense, this creates a burden for the prosecutor as a part of establishing their case to specifically disprove the affirmative defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
An act of simple negligence by the victim would not, by itself, constitute an intervening cause. Gross negligence by the victim, however, would constitute such an intervening cause.
Charges of vehicular assault and homicide are serious, and typically have significant punishment such as sentences in prison. If you are charged with such an offense, it is important to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who can examine whether or not an affirmative defense to the charge applies in your case, and also to minimize the negative consequences you may be facing in your chase should such a defense not apply.