Why a DUI "Accident" is Still Punishable

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 25, 2010 | 0 Comments

California criminal law excuses accidental acts that result in injury…sometimes. We say “sometimes” because in order for an accident to qualify as a California legal defense, it must occur during an otherwise lawful act.

If you are engaged in unlawful activity and “accidentally” injure someone, California criminal law will not excuse your conduct. This is why prosecutors can charge you with a sentencing enhancement…or even a more serious charge alleging DUI with injury…when you are involved in or cause an accident while you are driving under the influence.

DUI is a crime. It therefore follows that any acts that you perform while DUI are criminal as well. This means that if you are DUI and cause an “accident” in the exact same manner as someone who is sober, you will likely be punished for the accident, whereas your sober counterpart will not.

“Accident” only qualifies as a California legal defense under three circumstances:

  1. you didn't intend any harm,
  2. you weren't acting negligent at the time, and
  3. you were engaged in lawful conduct

If even one of these elements isn't satisfied, your accidental conduct will subject you to criminal prosecution. (Refer to our article by our California DUI lawyers, "Can a California DUI conviction be removed from my criminal record?")

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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