Criminal Law

DUI Accidents: The Consequences of Causing a Collision While Driving Under the Influence

By John McCurley, Attorney
Being involved in an accident while drunk driving can lead to enhanced penalties.

Anyone who’s caught driving drunk faces serious consequences. But there are a number of aggravating factors that can increase the already-stiff penalties for DUI. Being involved in a collision while driving intoxicated—especially where injuries or property damage are involved—is one such factor.

(To learn about the experiences of drivers arrested for DUIs involving aggravating factors, see Aggravated DUI: How Much Does It Cost and What Are the Penalties?)

How DUI Accidents Lead to Greater Penalties

The laws of many states punish DUI offenders more severely when the offense involves an accident. In Florida, for example, the maximum jail sentence for a standard first-offense DUI is six months. But if the drunk driver gets into an accident involving property damage or minor injuries, the punishment includes up to a year in jail. And if someone suffers “serious bodily injury” in the accident, the conviction can be a felony with a potential five-year prison sentence. (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 316.193, 775.082 (2016).)

The DUI laws of some states don’t specify enhanced penalties for DUIs involving accidents. However, even where the law doesn’t explicitly require it, DUI offenders who cause collisions tend to receive more severe treatment: Prosecutors are less likely to offer favorable plea bargains, and judges typically hand down harsher sentences.

Readers’ DUI-Accident Experiences

We surveyed readers in different parts of the country who had been arrested for DUIs involving collisions. We compared what they told us with the reported experiences of readers arrested for standard DUIs (DUIs not involving accidents). Here’s what the preliminary data showed:

  • Costs were higher. On average, DUIs with accidents cost our readers $7,700 (including court and attorneys’ fees). Those arrested for standard DUIs paid on average $6,500.
  • Prosecutors were more likely to file charges. Of our readers arrested for standard DUI, 16% were never charged by the prosecution. Compare that with 9% of those arrested for accident DUIs.
  • Conviction rates were up. A lofty 91% of readers arrested for DUI collisions were ultimately convicted of a DUI. Of those arrested on standard DUIs, only 66% were convicted.

Our survey results are consistent with the theme that prosecutors and courts are more severe with DUI offenders who actually lose control of their cars and smash into something or someone.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • If I cause a DUI accident and someone dies, can I be convicted of manslaughter or murder?
  • Will I have to pay for property damage I caused during a DUI collision?
  • Will I be punished more severely for a DUI involving an accident if only my car was damaged and no one was hurt?
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