What Happens When My DUI Results in Someone’s Death?

Categories: Criminal Defense

DUI resulting in death.

Most states, including Colorado, take charges of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI) very seriously. Even if it is your first offense and there weren’t any injuries or damage to property, the penalties for DUI can impact your life for a year or more. But when you add aggravating factors like bodily injury and/or property damage, the penalties can increase. And if the crash results in death, well now you are looking at some potentially lifelong consequences. In this blog, we’re going to breakdown the possible consequences for your first through your fourth DUI, as well as possible consequences, if your DUI results in someone’s death. 

Penalties for Ordinary DUI and DWAI

Colorado’s drunk driving laws define DUI and DWAI as follows: 

“If at the time of the commission of an alleged offense, or within a reasonable time thereafter, a defendant’s BAC exceeds 0.05 but is less than 0.08, there is a permissible inference that the defendant’s ability to operate a vehicle was impaired by the consumption of alcohol. If at such time the defendant’s BAC is 0.08 or more, there is a permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol. Similarly, if at the time of an offense, or within a reasonable time thereafter, a defendant’s blood contains 5 nanograms or more of delta-9 THC (the active substance in marijuana) per milliliter in whole blood, there is a permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence of one or more drugs.”

That is the definition of the offenses as per Colorado law. The penalties vary according to how many prior offenses you’ve had (and keep in mind that these penalties are for cases that DO NOT include bodily injury or property damage).

  • 1st offense DWAI: 2 – incarceration up to 180 days; $200 – $500 fine; 24 – 48 hours public service
  • 1st offense DUI: the incarceration of 5 days to 1 year; $600 – $1,000 fine; 48 – 96 hours public service
  • 2nd offense (DUI or DWAI): the incarceration of 10 days to 1 year; $600 – $1,500 fine; 48 – 120 hours public service
  • 3rd offense (DUI or DWAI): the incarceration of 60 days to 1 year; $600 – $1,500 fine; 48 – 120 hours public service
  • 4th offense (DUI or DWAI): 2 to 6 years imprisonment; 3 years parole; 48 – 120 hours public service

A couple of things to note: All of the offenses listed are considered misdemeanors with the exception of the 4th offense. A 4th offense is considered a Class 4 felony, which means you will have a felony charge on your record. Also, if you are under 21 and are charged with a DUI (BAC of at least .02 but not more than .05), then you will not go to jail but will be fined $15 – $100 for your first offense. For subsequent offenses, you will serve 10 to 90 days in jail and pay $150 to $300 in fines. You will also have to perform up to 24 public service hours for all offenses if you are charged and under the age of 21.

Increased Penalties for DUI Resulting in Death

If you are charged with a DUI that resulted in someone’s death, as you can imagine, things get much more serious. A DUI that resulted in death is considered a vehicular homicide and is classified as a Class 3 felony. This felony generally carries a prison sentence of 4 to 12 years. However, the judge has discretion on sentencing. So if your case presents any particularly troubling, reckless, or egregious behavior, the judge has the ability to sentence you to more prison time.

DUI vehicular homicide cases differ from regular DUI’s in other ways as well. One significant difference is that you do not have the right to refuse a blood alcohol test in such cases. In sharp contrast to routine DUI’s, officers at the accident scene are allowed to take a blood alcohol test from you, even if he or she must physically restrain you to do so. Secondly, vehicular homicide is considered a “victim’s rights” crime. This means that the prosecutor in your case has the obligation to check with the victim’s family and get their input before offering you a plea deal. This can make it harder to get a reduced plea because of the family’s anger and grief over the loss of a loved one.

Habitual Offenders

If you have a history of habitual drunk driving, it is important to understand what such a crash can cost you. If you have prior DUI’s and an accident caused by your intoxication results in a person’s death, you can be charged with first-degree murder. And while this does not happen often, it can happen. One recent example of this is the 2019 case of Todd Grudznske. Mr. Grudznske had a history of six previous DUI’s. But on  September 30th of last year, he hit three bars and consumed over 9 shots of liquor before crashing into 25-year-old Angela Wimmer who was just sitting at a stoplight. Mr. Grudznske was charged and convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Our Skilled Lawyer Can Help

Getting a charge of DUI is serious business. It can impact your entire life in a multitude of ways. If a death results from a DUI, potential consequences ramp up to an entirely new level, and you will need the help of an experienced attorney to guard your rights and protect you as much as possible throughout this process.

We know how to challenge the stop of your vehicle, challenge the evidence, and challenge assumptions that can be made that cast you in the worst possible light during the pendency of your case. This is a critical time for you to seek the help of Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., who has your very best interests in mind at all times and who will go to the mat for you. Call us today for a free consultation, or fill out our online contact form. We look forward to helping you.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.