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Columbus DUI and Drunk Driving Accidents

Ohio looks very harshly upon drivers who are believed to have caused injuries or deaths while operating a vehicle under the influence. A conviction can mean years in prison and losing your driver’s license for anywhere from a couple of years — or permanently, under some circumstances. If you do get your license back someday, you’re likely to pay much higher car insurance rates. You’ll also face the stigma of a lifelong felony criminal record that may impede your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or to obtain a professional license for your career.

If you’ve been charged with vehicular assault or vehicular homicide related to an OVI / DUI, you need the help of an experienced Columbus criminal defense attorney who can represent you in court and work toward the best possible outcome in your case.

DUI Accidents as Probable Cause

Courts in Ohio have said that being involved in an accident plus an indication that you’ve been drinking are enough to give police probable cause to arrest you for DUI.

For example, in the Portage County case State v. Hummel, 154 Ohio App.3d 123 (2003), the defendant was arrested following a motorcycle accident and after he was seen slipping in and out of consciousness in an ambulance while also smelling like alcohol and slurring his speech when he spoke to an Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendant and said the trooper’s observations of slurred speech and glassy eyes could be attributed to the head injury the defendant suffered in his accident and did not give the trooper probable cause to arrest the defendant since the trooper did not observe the defendant actually driving.

However, the appellate court ruled that since it requires less evidence to give a law enforcement officer probable cause for an arrest than it would for a jury to convict someone, the arrest was valid. The trooper just needed enough trustworthy information that a prudent person could believe the defendant had operated the motorcycle while under the influence and the sum total of the accident, the odor of alcohol, the slurred speech and glassy eyes, and that the defendant was still being treated for injuries at the scene when the trooper arrived were enough to allow the arrest.

Aggravated Vehicular Assault

When you seriously injure someone while driving under the influence in Central Ohio, you may be charged with the crime of aggravated vehicular assault. You also may be charged with aggravated vehicular assault if you cause serious injury to someone’s unborn child while driving under the influence.

Under Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 2903. 08, aggravated vehicular assault generally is a third-degree felony punishable by a mandatory prison sentence. According to ORC 2929.14, the sentencing range for third-degree felonies is one to five years.

Aggravated vehicular assault can become a second-degree felony under certain circumstances.
Those include:

  • You were driving under suspension at the time of the offense
  • You have a previous conviction or guilty plea for aggravated vehicular assault
  • You have a previous conviction or guilty plea for any traffic-related homicide, manslaughter, or assault
  • You have three or more previous OVI / DUI convictions or guilty pleas in the past 10 years, including operating a boat or aircraft under the influence
  • You have two or more previous felony OVI / DUI convictions or guilty pleas

Second-degree felonies are punishable under ORC 2929.14 with two to eight years in prison.

In addition to prison time, when you’re convicted of aggravated vehicular assault, you’re subject to having your driver’s license suspended for two to ten years. Your license suspension may be anywhere from three years to life if you have a previous conviction for:

  • Vehicular assault
  • Any traffic-related homicide, manslaughter, or assault
  • Any traffic-related murder, felonious assault, or attempted murder

Aggravated Vehicular Homicide

When you cause the death or unlawful termination of someone’s pregnancy while driving under the influence in Columbus, you may be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide. This charge also applies when you cause a fatality while operating a boat or aircraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Aggravated vehicular homicide is a second-degree felony subject to a mandatory prison term. ORC 2929.14 sets the penalty for second-degree felonies at two to eight years in prison.

The offense is a first-degree felony punishable by three to 11 years in prison under ORC 2929.14 when:

  • You were driving with a suspended or canceled license or had no valid license
  • You have a previous conviction or guilty plea for vehicular homicide
  • You have a previous conviction or guilty plea for any traffic-related homicide, manslaughter, or assault

When the following are true, a conviction may be a first-degree felony punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison under ORC 2929.142:

  • You have three or more previous OVI convictions, including operating a boat or aircraft under the influence
  • Three or more prior convictions or guilty pleas for vehicular homicide
  • Three or more prior convictions or guilty pleas for vehicular assault
  • Any combination of three of the above
  • Two or more felony OVI / DUI convictions or guilty pleas

If convicted of aggravated vehicular assault while driving under the influence, you also are subject to having your driver’s license suspended for life.

Civil Liability in DUI Accidents

The criminal consequences of a conviction for aggravated vehicular assault or aggravated vehicular homicide are harsh on their own, but if you are found guilty of causing someone’s injury or death while driving under the influence, you also may find yourself facing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. Your conviction may be used as evidence in the civil case to convince a jury that you owe compensation to the person you are alleged to have injured, or the family of the person you are alleged to have killed.

At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we can help you confront the Ohio criminal justice system from your arrest through to your trial. By advocating for your rights and thinking strategically about your case defense, we will maximize your chances of obtaining a positive case result. If you’ve been charged with OVI, call us today at (614) 500-3836 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

Been in a Columbus DUI Accident? Contact Us.

If you’ve been charged with a OVI / DUI, it’s important to know what you’re up against. If you have any questions left unanswered by this page, or if you need a competent, experienced Columbus DUI attorney to fight for you in court, please contact us at (614) 500-3836 or via email at [email protected].

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