Thursday, June 2, 2011

Manhattan Beach DUI Attorney Explains the Meaning of "Bodily Injury" in Felony DUI Cases

The California Vehicle Codes makes a DUI a felony when "bodily injury" results from any unlawful act caused by the drunk driver. Vehicle Code §23153 only requires proof of “bodily injury,” not proof of “substantial bodily injury” or “great bodily injury.” said the Court in the case of People v Guzman (2000) 77 CA4th 761 where the justices held that the California statute only requires proof of “harm or hurt to the body”. Minor injuries will satisfy the statutory requirement such as abrasions, lacerations, and back and neck pain, also cuts, headache, and stiff neck were sufficient injuries that have been found to satisfy the legal requirement of injury.  The distinction is significant given the greater punishment imposed for these offenses.

However, according to a local Manhattan Beach DUI Attorney  Matthew Ruff, there must be some physical injury; merely being shaken up or frightened is insufficient, at least that is what the Court said in the case of People v Lares (1968) 261 CA2d 657, 662. When the defendant causes “great bodily injury,” the court has authority to increase the punishment by imposing a sentence enhancement under Pen C §12022.7. This enhancement makes the offense not only a felony, but a "strike". In addition, when the defendant causes “great bodily injury” and has four or more separate DUI convictions within ten years of the current conviction, the court must impose a sentence enhancement under Veh C §23566(b). Furthermore, The bodily injury must be sustained by someone other than the defendant (Veh C §23153(a), (b)), for example, the defendant may be convicted of a violation of Veh C §23153 based on injuries sustained by a passenger in the defendant’s vehicle but not for injuries sustained solely by the perpetrator of the offense.

Should you require additional information about this topic or if you or a loved one is facing a felony DUI, attorney Matthew Ruff can be reached directly at 310-527-4100 for a consultation and review of your case.


  1. Does any injury constitute a felony? are there cases where minor injuries do not become felonies?

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  3. In order for a DUI with Injury to be a felony in california the injury must be substantial, soft tissue injuries such as "whiplash" usually do not suffice.