California Vehicle Code 23153 VC
DUI Causing Injury

California Vehicle Code 23153 VC defines the crime of "DUI causing injury" as driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another person as a result. Prosecutors may charge VC 23153 DUI causing injury as either a misdemeanor or a felony.1

Vehicle Code 23153 VC reads: "(a) It is unlawful for a person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver. (b) It is unlawful for a person, while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver. . . . (e) It is unlawful for a person, while under the influence of any drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver. "

For purposes of VC 23153, "driving under the influence" can mean any of:

In order to help you better understand the legal definition of California "DUI causing injury", our California DUI defense attorneys will address the following:

If, after reading this article, you have additional questions, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. How Does the Prosecutor Prove that I am Guilty of a DUI Causing Injury?

In order to convict you of California Vehicle Code 23153 VC “DUI causing injury,” the prosecutor must prove three facts (otherwise known as “elements of the crime”):

  1. you were violating California's DUI laws,
  2. while doing so, you broke an additional law or acted in an otherwise negligent manner while driving, and
  3. your unlawful act or negligence injured another person.2
Glass-of-whiskey-beside-handcuffs-and-car-keys
You can be guilty of DUI causing injury under VC 23153 if you either drove under the influence or drove with a BAC of 0.08% or greater.

You violate California's DUI laws by EITHER:

  • driving under the influence of alcohol (that is, driving while your mental or physical abilities are impaired by alcohol), 
  • driving with a blood alcohol content ("BAC") of 0.08% or greater, or
  • driving under the influence of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol.3

It should be noted that if you were driving a commercial vehicle, the prosecutor need only prove that you drove with a BAC of 0.04% or greater. For more information about DUI laws and how they relate to commercial drivers, please review our article on California DUI Laws and Commercial Licenses.

Let's take a closer look at these elements to better understand the offense of VC 23153 DUI causing injury.

That you drove “under the influence” or “with a BAC of 0.08% or greater”

If you are “under the influence” for purposes of DUI with injury law, it means that “your physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that you no longer have the ability to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.”4

With respect to driving under the influence of drugs (California Vehicle Code 23152e), the drugs may be illegal, prescription, or even over-the-counter.5

Driving “with a BAC of 0.08% or greater” is what's known as the “per se” law. This is because California DUI law presumes that if your BAC is 0.08% or greater at the time of your blood or breath test, you are guilty of DUI (and therefore can be guilty under VC 23153)--regardless of whether you were actually under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.6

Your blood alcohol concentration (or “BAC”) is the amount of blood that is present in your bloodstream. It is measured as grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.7

That you broke a law or otherwise acted in a negligent manner

California DUI law under Vehicle Code 23153 VC provides that you must (1) act in a negligent manner, or (2) break a law in addition to driving under the influence. This means that it must be your act or negligence that causes the other person's injury.

Night-car-crash-scene
You are only guilty under VC 23153 if you performed an illegal or negligent act in addition to the DUI

Here's an example to illustrate the point.

Example: Bob, who is “buzzed” while driving home from a party, gets rear-ended by Steve, who cut his head on the windshield during the accident. Under these circumstances, prosecutors could charge Bob with “DUI causing injury.”

However, Bob's California DUI defense attorney would argue that Vehicle Code 23152(a) misdemeanor DUI8 would be a more appropriate charge…since the accident and injury weren't caused by Bob.

BUT: If Bob was speeding while buzzed and he rear-ended Steve, prosecutors would likely maintain that a “DUI with injury” under VC 23153 would be the appropriate charge, because

  1. he sped while driving under the influence, and
  2. his speed led him to rear-end Steve, causing Steve's head injury.

2. What are the Penalties for Vehicle Code 23153 VC?

The consequences of a California “DUI with injury” conviction vary a great deal depending on

  1. the facts of your specific case, and
  2. whether it's your first or second DUI within a ten year period (otherwise known as a “lookback” period). California DUI offenses are “priorable,” which means that your punishment necessarily increases with each subsequent conviction.

It should be noted that unlike a non-injury DUI under Vehicle Code 23152, a third “DUI with injury” offense under VC 23153 is an automatic California felony DUI, not a misdemeanor.9

Whiskey-glass-next-to-car-keys
VC 23153 DUI with injury can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Below are the types of consequences and penalties that you face if convicted of misdemeanor or felony Vehicle Code 23153 VC.

Misdemeanor DUI with injury under VC 2315310 --

  • Informal (“summary”) probation for three to five years,
  • five days to one year in a county jail,
  • between $390-$5,000 in fines,
  • a three, nine, 18, or 30 month court approved alcohol or drug education program (otherwise known as “California DUI school”),
  • a one or three-year suspension of your California driving privilege, and
  • restitution to any/all injured parties.

Felony DUI with injury under VC 2315311 --

  • Two, three, or four years in the California State Prison, with
  • an additional and consecutive three- to six-year prison sentence if any victim suffers great bodily injury,12 or
  • an additional and consecutive one-year sentence for each additional person that suffers any injury (up to three years maximum),13
  • a “strike” on your record pursuant to California's Three Strike's Law if anyone other than yourself suffers great bodily injury,
  • between $1,015-$5,000 in fines,
  • an 18- or 30-month court-approved DUI school,
  • Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) status for three years, and
  • a five-year revocation of your California driver's license.

3. How Do I Fight a VC 23153 Charge?

Defending against a California Vehicle Code 23153 VC violation begins with the same approach as defending against any drunk driving charge. A California DUI defense attorney will explore all possibilities of proving that (1) you weren't under the influence, and/or (2) your unlawful blood alcohol level was inaccurately reported.

A skilled California drunk driving defense attorney will additionally ensure that all investigation, arrest, and breath-testing procedures were properly adhered to--and use these issues to fight the VC 23153 charge if they were not.

The defense takes on an additional approach when focusing in on the accident and subsequent injury. A good criminal defense lawyer will work with an accident reconstruction expert who can independently evaluate whether the accident that caused the injury was truly your fault.

Courtroom-with-scales-of-justice
A good DUI defense lawyer will work with technical experts to fight your Vehicle Code 23153 charges.

The accident reconstruction expert “reconstructs” the scene of the alleged VC 23153 DUI causing injury, taking into account factors such as

  • the weather,
  • road conditions,
  • damage to the vehicles, and
  • any other relevant evidence that he/she acquires.

When police arrive on the scene of an accident and learn that someone has been drinking, they tend automatically to assume that that person is to blame. Police traffic investigators then write their reports based on that presumption.

As Los Angeles DUI defense attorney John Murray explains,15

“This is why Vehicle Code 23153 charges are frequently reduced to Vehicle Code 23152 VC charges. It is often difficult for the prosecution to prove that it was your negligence that caused the other person's injury, rather than the alleged fact that you were simply under the influence.”

For a detailed explanation of specific DUI defenses that may be applicable to a Vehicle Code 23153 VC charge, please review our article “20 Ways to Beat a California DUI.”

4. Vehicle Code 23153 VC DUI Causing Injury and Related Offenses

There are a variety of offenses that--depending on the circumstances--prosecutors could charge you with in addition to (or in lieu of) Vehicle Code 23153 VC “DUI with injury.” Below is an example of some of the most common.

California Penal Code 191.5 PC Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated

Prosecutors could charge you with Penal Code 191.5 vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated, a more serious crime than VC 23153 DUI causing injury, under one of two circumstances:

  1. you drive under the influence, break another law or behave negligently, and thereby cause the death of another person,16 or
  2. while driving under the influence, you commit an act that is likely to result in the death of another person and thereby cause that person's death (this is the more severe form of PC 191.5, known as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated).17
Car-crash-scene
Vehicular manslaughter and hit and run offenses are sometimes charged along with or instead of DUI causing injury.

California Vehicle Code 20001 Felony Hit and Run Involving Injury or Death

Prosecutors could charge you with Vehicle Code 20001 VC felony hit and run involving injury or death if--after you are involved in an accident--you don't (1) stop and provide your information, and (2) provide reasonable assistance to anyone requiring medical attention.18

Although we're dealing with Vehicle Code 23153 VC DUI causing injury--which implies that you are at fault for the accident--it should be noted that these requirements apply regardless of liability.

California Penal Code 273a PC Child Endangerment

Prosecutors could charge you with Penal Code 273a child endangerment if--at the time of your DUI causing injury offense--you were driving with a child as a passenger in the car.19 If convicted of a felony child endangerment charge, you fact up to six years in the state prison.20

Call us for help . . . 

DUI-defense-firm-call-center

If you or loved one is charged with Vehicle Code 23153 VC DUI causing injury and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

For information about Nevada DUI causing injury law, go to our article on Nevada DUI causing injury law.

¿Habla español? Visite nuestro sitio Web en español sobre la DUI causando lesiones en la ley de California.

Additional Resource:

Court-Approved DUI Alcohol Programs
A state-wide listing of court-approved DUI alcohol programs broken down by city.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 23153 VC -- Driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another person; blood alcohol percentage; presumptions. (“(a) It is unlawful for any person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver. (b) It is unlawful for any person, while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver. In any prosecution under this subdivision [that is, California DUI causing injury], it is a rebuttable presumption that the person had 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood at the time of driving the vehicle if the person had 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood at the time of the performance of a chemical test within three hours after driving. . . . (e) It is unlawful for a person, while under the influence of any drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver. (f) It is unlawful for a person, while under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver”) (Your blood alcohol concentration (or “BAC”) is the amount of blood that is present in your bloodstream.)
  2. California Jury Instructions – Criminal. CALJIC 12.60 -- Felony driving under the influence causing injury. (“In order to prove this crime, each of the following elements must be proved: [1] A person drove a vehicle while under the [influence of [any alcoholic beverage] [any drug]] [combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and any drug]; [2] That person concurrently [did an act which violated the law] [or] [failed to perform a duty required by law], namely, ; and [3] The [violation of law] [or] [failure to perform a duty] was a cause of bodily injury to a person other than the driver of the vehicle.”)
  3. California Jury Instructions – Criminal. CALJIC 12.60.1 -- Felony driving with 0.08% (otherwise known as DUI with a BAC of 0.08% or greater and causing an injury]. (“In order to prove this crime, each of the following elements must be proved: [1] A person drove a vehicle while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in [his] [her] blood; [2] That person concurrently [did an act forbidden by law] [or] [failed to perform a duty imposed by law] in the driving of the vehicle, namely, ; and [3] The [violation of law] [or] [failure to perform a duty] was a cause of bodily injury to a person other than the driver of the vehicle.”)
  4. California Jury Instructions – Criminal. CALJIC 12.65 -- Driving under the influence – felony prosecutions [for VC 23153]. (“A person is [under the influence of an alcoholic beverage] [under the influence of a drug] [under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug] when as a result of [drinking such alcoholic beverage] [using a drug] [his] [her] physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that [he] [she] no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.”)
  5. See same regarding driving under the influence of drugs. (“[The term “drug” as used in this instruction means any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair, to an appreciable degree, [his] [her] ability to drive a vehicle in the manner that an ordinarily prudent and cautious person, in full possession of [his] [her] faculties, using reasonable care, would drive a similar vehicle under like conditions.]”)
  6. California Jury Instructions – Criminal. CALJIC 12.61.1 Driving With 0.08 Percent or More—Inference. (“(Vehicle Code §§ 23152, subdivision (b) and 23153 [California DUI causing injury], subdivision (b)) If the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) a sample of defendant's blood, breath or urine was obtained within three hours after [he] [she] operated a vehicle and (2) that a chemical analysis of the sample established that there was 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in the defendant's blood at the time of the performance of the chemical test, then you may, but are not required to, infer that the defendant drove a vehicle with 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in [his] [her] blood at the time of the alleged offense. [The failure, if any, to follow the regulations adopted by the California State Department of Health for procedures to be used in administering tests to determine the concentration of alcohol in a person's blood may be considered by you in determining the accuracy of the test or test results made in this case.]”)
  7. Your blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) is measured by California DUI chemical tests for purposes of DUI causing injury cases. Blood and breath tests are the most reliable indicators of one's BAC, although urine tests are sometimes used.
  8. California Vehicle Code 23152 misdemeanor DUI [element of VC 23153 DUI causing injury].
  9. California Vehicle Code 23566 (California felony DUI) -- Three or more offenses; punishment. (“(a) If a person is convicted of a violation of [Vehicle Code] Section 23153 [DUI causing injury] and the offense occurred within 10 years of two or more separate violations of [Vehicle Code] Section 23103, as specified in Section 23103.5, or Section 23152 or 23153, or any combination of these violations, that resulted in convictions, that person shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of two, three, or four years and by a fine of not less than one thousand fifteen dollars ($1,015) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000). “)
  10. California Vehicle Code 23556 -- Conditions of probation for a first offense for Vehicle Code 23153 DUI causing injury. (“(a)(1) If the court grants probation to any person punished under Section 23554, in addition to the provisions of Section 23600 and any other terms and conditions imposed by the court, the court shall impose as a condition of probation that the person be confined in the county jail for at least five days but not more than one year and pay a fine of at least three hundred ninety dollars ($390) but not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000). (2) The person's privilege to operate a motor vehicle shall be suspended by the department under paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 13352. The court shall require the person to surrender the driver's license to the court in accordance with Section 13550. (b)(1) In a county where the county alcohol program administrator has certified, and the board of supervisors has approved, a program or programs, the court shall also impose as a condition of probation that the driver shall participate in, and successfully complete, an alcohol and other drug education and counseling program [otherwise known as California DUI school], established pursuant to Section 11837.3 of the Health and Safety Code, as designated by the court. (2) In any county where the board of supervisors has approved and the State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs has licensed an alcohol and other drug education and counseling program, the court shall also impose as a condition of probation that the driver enroll in, participate in, and successfully complete, a driving-under-the-influence program licensed pursuant to Section 11836 of the Health and Safety Code, in the driver's county of residence or employment, as designated by the court. For the purposes of this paragraph, enrollment in, participation in, and completion of, an approved program shall be subsequent to the date of the current violation. Credit may not be given to any program activities completed prior to the date of the current violation. (3) The court shall refer a first offender [under California Vehicle Code 23153 DUI causing injury] whose blood-alcohol concentration was less than 0.20 percent, by weight, to participate for three months or longer, as ordered by the court, in a licensed program that consists of at least 30 hours of program activities, including those education, group counseling, and individual interview sessions described in Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 11836) of Part 2 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety Code. (4) The court shall refer a first offender whose blood-alcohol concentration was 0.20 percent or more, by weight, or who refused to take a chemical test, to participate for nine months or longer, as ordered by the court, in a licensed program that consists of at least 60 hours of program activities, including those education, group counseling, and individual interview sessions described in Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 11836) of Part 2 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety Code. (c)(1) The court shall revoke the person's probation pursuant to Section 23602, except for good cause shown, for the failure to enroll in, participate in, or complete a program specified in subdivision (b).”)

    See also California Vehicle Code 23562 -- Conditions of probation for second offense Vehicle Code 23153 DUI with injury. (“If the court grants probation to a person punished under Section 23560, in addition to the provisions of Section 23600 and any other terms and conditions imposed by the court, the court shall impose as conditions of probation that the person be subject to either subdivision (a) or (b), as follows: (a) Be confined in the county jail for at least 120 days and pay a fine of at least three hundred ninety dollars ($390), but not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000). The person's privilege to operate a motor vehicle shall be revoked by the department under paragraph (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 13352. The court shall require the person to surrender the driver's license to the court in accordance with Section 13550. (b) All of the following apply [for a second conviction of California Vehicle Code 23153 VC DUI causing injury]: (1) Be confined in the county jail for at least 30 days, but not more than one year. (2) Pay a fine of at least three hundred ninety dollars ($390), but not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000). (3) The privilege to operate a motor vehicle shall be revoked by the department under paragraph (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 13352. The court shall require the person to surrender the driver's license to the court in accordance with Section 13550. (4) Either of the following: (A) Enroll and participate, for at least 18 months subsequent to the date of the underlying violation and in a manner satisfactory to the court, in a driving-under-the-influence program licensed pursuant to Section 11836 of the Health and Safety Code, if available in the county of the person's residence or employment, as designated by the court. The person shall complete the entire program subsequent to, and shall not be given any credit for program activities completed prior to, the date of the current violation. The program shall provide for persons who cannot afford the program fee pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 11837.4 of the Health and Safety Code in order to enable those persons to participate. (B) Enroll and participate, for at least 30 months subsequent to the date of the underlying violation and in a manner satisfactory to the court, in a driving-under-the-influence program licensed pursuant to Section 11836 of the Health and Safety Code, if available in the county of the person's residence or employment. The person shall complete the entire program subsequent to, and shall not be given any credit for program activities completed prior to, the date of the current violation.”)

  11. California Vehicle Code 23566 -- Three or more offenses; punishment for Vehicle Code 23153 VC DUI causing injury. (“(a) If a person is convicted of a violation of Section 23153 and the offense occurred within 10 years of two or more separate violations of Section 23103, as specified in Section 23103.5, or Section 23152 or 23153, or any combination of these violations, that resulted in convictions, that person shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of two, three, or four years and by a fine of not less than one thousand fifteen dollars ($1,015) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000). The person's privilege to operate a motor vehicle shall be revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles pursuant to paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 13352. The court shall require the person to surrender the driver's license to the court in accordance with Section 13550. (b) If a person is convicted of a violation of [California Vehicle Code] Section 23153 [DUI causing injury], and the act or neglect proximately causes great bodily injury, as defined in Section 12022.7 of the Penal Code, to any person other than the driver, and the offense occurred within 10 years of two or more separate violations of Section 23103, as specified in Section 23103.5, or Section 23152 or 23153, or any combination of these violations, that resulted in convictions, that person shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of two, three, or four years and by a fine of not less than one thousand fifteen dollars ($1,015) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000). The person's privilege to operate a motor vehicle shall be revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles pursuant to paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 13352. The court shall require the person to surrender the driver's license to the court in accordance with Section 13550. (c) If a person is convicted under subdivision (b), and the offense for which the person is convicted occurred within 10 years of four or more separate violations of [California Vehicle Code] Section 23103, as specified in Section 23103.5, or Section 23152 or [Vehicle Code] 23153 [DUI causing injury], or any combination of these violations, that resulted in convictions, that person shall, in addition and consecutive to the sentences imposed under subdivision (b), be punished by an additional term of imprisonment in the state prison for three years. The enhancement allegation provided in this subdivision shall be pleaded and proved as provided by law. (d) A person convicted of Section 23153 punishable under this section shall be designated as a habitual traffic offender for a period of three years, subsequent to the conviction. The person shall be advised of this designation pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 13350.”)
  12. California Penal Code 12022.7 -- Terms of imprisonment for persons inflicting great bodily injury while committing or attempting felony [including felony VC 23153 DUI causing injury].
  13. California Vehicle Code 23558 -- Causing bodily injury or death to more than one victim while driving in violation of specified sections [including VC 23153 DUI with injury]; felony convictions; enhancement of punishment.
  14. California Penal Code 1192.7; see also California Penal Code 667 [definitions of serious and violent felonies may encompass VC 23153 DUI with injury].
  15. Los Angeles DUI defense attorney John Murray represents clients accused of California drunk driving cases in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.
  16. California Penal Code 191.5 vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated -- negligent vehicular manslaughter while driving [related offense to DUI causing injury].
  17. See same.
  18. California Vehicle Code 20001 VC felony hit and run involving injury or death [related offense to DUI causing injury].
  19. California Penal Code 273a child endangerment [related offense to DUI causing injury].
  20. See same.

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