Charges of driving under the influence are expected to be filed against 6 drivers that were involved in a 7-car accident in Georgia during the wee hours of July 5th. It is believed that the initial crash occurred because a man who was walking on the roadway was struck by a car, and a chain reaction crash ensued. A few passengers or drivers suffered severe injuries as a result of the accident, with one of them remaining in critical condition. If the person dies as a result of the injuries, the ramifications could be tremendous as far as both criminal and civil liability.
Pennsylvania Charge of Aggravated Assault While DUI
In Pennsylvania, some of the drivers could be charged with Aggravated Assault by Vehicle While Driving Under the Influence, in violation of 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3735.1. That charge requires proof that a person negligently caused serious bodily injury to another person as a result of a DUI violation and was convicted of DUI. While a normal driving under the influence charge is a misdemeanor offense, an Aggravated Assault While DUI charge is a felony of the second degree and there by punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $25,000.00 fine.
Causation Issue - Commonwealth v. Spotti
The issue here would be whether or not the defendants "caused" the bodily injury. In a recent case Commonwealth v. Spotti, the Superior Court had to review a Pittsburgh DUI case in which the defendant was speeding and driving erratically on Route 376. Two drivers noticed the erratic driving and contacted the police, and both drivers continued to follow the defendant until police responded. One driver was directly behind the defendant, and when the driver saw the police car, he moved over into the right lane. The defendant then also moved abruptly into the right lane and hit his brakes hard, which caused the driver to swerve out of the right lane and onto the berm. Regretfully, a broken down car and tow truck were stopped in the berm, and the driver crashed into the parked vehicles. The driver, his passenger, and the driver of broken down car and tow truck driver were all injured.
The defendant was charged and convicted of Aggravated Assault by Vehicle While Driving Under the Influence. On appeal, the Superior Court had to review whether or not the defendant "caused" the injuries. The Court stated that "the first link in the proverbial chain of causation was that the intoxication was a direct and substantial factor in causing the reckless driving," and the "second link was the reckless driving was a direct and substantial cause of the victim's injuries." In order to uphold the conviction, both links must be present. In overturning the convictions of Aggravated Assault While DUI, the Court stated that the evidence was clearly sufficient to prove that the defendant's intoxication was the cause or a factor in the reckless driving, but the Court felt that defendant's driving was not the direct cause of the accident. The Court distinguished the facts in Spotti from other cases in which the defendant's vehicle did directly strike the vehicle of the injured party.
Serious Charges Requires Experienced DUI Lawyers
While the Georgia DUI drivers made a huge mistake by getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, they should not make another mistake and represent themselves or retain an inexperienced attorney. Similar to the defendant in Spotti, an argument can be made that some of the drivers did not directly cause the injuries and thereby avoid a conviction of Aggravated Assault While Driving Under the Influence. The drivers need to hire an experienced DUI defense attorney to try and obtain the best resolution possible.