When can I be charged with "vehicular assault" in Colorado?
You commit vehicular assault in violation of Colorado Revised Statutes 18-3-205, C.R.S. when:
- You drive in a reckless manner OR you drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and
- Your driving is the proximate cause of a serious bodily injury to another person.
“Serious bodily injury” means injury which, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves:
- a substantial risk of death,
- a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement,
- a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or
- breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree. 1
Colorado vehicular assault penalties
Vehicular assault that results from reckless driving is a Colorado class 5 felony. Consequences of reckless vehicular assault can include:
- 1-3 years in a Colorado prison (with mandatory 2-year parole),2 and/or
- A fine of $1,000-$100,000.3
Vehicular assault caused by DUI is more serious. It is a Colorado class 4 felony with consequences that can include:
- 2-6 years in a Colorado prison (with mandatory 3-year parole),4 and/or
- A fine of $2,000-$500,000.5
How do I defend against charges of Colorado vehicular assault?
Vehicular assault is charged only when someone is seriously injured. As a result, these cases are vigorously prosecuted.
Our Colorado DUI defense lawyers know that there are many ways to challenge vehicular assault charges. If you or someone you know has been arrested for vehicular assault, our caring lawyers at the Colorado Legal Defense Group will do everything we can to prove that your accident was just that – an accident.
Don't let one tragic mistake destroy your good name and take away your freedom. Contact us for a free consultation and find out why we are some of the best DUI lawyers in Denver.
In the meantime, to help you better understand the Colorado crime of vehicular assault, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. What is vehicular assault in Colorado?
- 1.1. What constitutes reckless driving?
- 1.2. The definition of "proximate cause"
- 1.3. The definition of "under the influence"
- 2. Penalties for Colorado vehicular assault
- 3. Defenses to Colorado vehicular assault charges
Section 18-3-205 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) sets forth the felony crime of vehicular assault. You commit vehicular assault when:
- You drive recklessly OR under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and
- Your driving is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to another person.
Vehicular assault is a strict liability crime. This means it does not matter whether you intended to hurt someone. The question is whether you voluntary drove recklessly or while you were under the influence of alcohol and/or one or more drugs.6
“Recklessness” is defined under 18-3-106, C.R.S. You act in a reckless manner when:
- you consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk,
- that a result will occur or that a circumstance exists.
Recklessness requires a higher degree of culpability than mere negligence. If you simply fail to perceive a risk that you should have been aware of, you are negligent, not reckless.
You are the proximate cause of someone's injury if the injury is a natural and probable consequence of your misconduct.
- Alice decides to drive home from a party, even though she has been drinking. Her BAC is, in fact, .10%, well over Colorado's "legal limit" of .08%. On her way home, Alice hits a child on a bicycle and breaks several bones in his face. Because Alice voluntarily drove while under the influence, her driving was the proximate cause of the child's serious injuries and she can be charged with vehicular assault.
Alice would not be legally responsible for the child's injuries if:
- They resulted from an intervening event that was completely independent of the accident,
- The intervening event was unforeseeable,
- Alice did not participate in the intervening event, and
- If not for the intervening event, the child would not have sustained the serious injuries.
- Let's say that in the prior example the accident just broke the child's arm in one place. A simple break is not a serious enough injury to merit vehicular assault charges. But while the child is being looked at in the emergency room, a former employee comes into the hospital with a gun and starts shooting people. The child is shot in the face, leaving him disfigured. Although the accident started the whole thing, the shooting was unforeseeable and Alice had nothing to do with it. If not for the shooting, the child would have fully recovered. So the shooting -- not the accident -- that was the proximate cause of the child's injuries.
You drive under the influence in Colorado when:
- You drive after using alcohol and/or drugs, and
- As a result of the alcohol and/or drugs you are substantially incapable, mentally and/or physically, of exercising clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.
DUI in a vehicular assault case is often established by evidence of:
- your blood alcohol content (BAC),
- your statements,
- your driving,
- witness accounts of the accident,
- reconstruction of your activities before you got in the car, and
- the presence of alcohol, drugs and/or drug paraphernalia in your car.
Unlike a simple charge of DUI, there is no fixed BAC that automatically makes you guilty of vehicular assault. However, for purposes of Colorado's vehicular assault law, the jury is permitted -- even without other evidence of intoxication – to determine that you drove under the influence if:
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .08% or higher (DUI per se),7 or
- Your blood contained five nanograms or more per milliliter of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.8
If a drug or other substance makes you drive unsafely, you are driving under the influence. It does not matter whether the drug is legal or medically necessary. Even innocuous drugs can lead to DUI charges. These include not only alcohol and controlled substances, but seemingly innocent and commonly used drugs such as:
- Allergy medications,
- Cold medicines,
- Over the counter pain medications,
- Inhaled vapors, and
- Medical marijuana.
By driving in Colorado, you are deemed to give your "express consent" to a chemical BAC test if you are arrested on suspicion of DUI. Normally, you must be given the choice of a DUI breath test or DUI blood test.
If the arresting officer reasonably suspects that drugs were involved, however, you can be required to take a blood, urine or saliva test instead of -- or in addition to -- a breath test.
Refusing to take a chemical test will get your license automatically suspended for one year. This is obviously not as serious as two or more years in prison. So you might decide it is in your best interest to refuse to take a chemical test if you have been drinking or using drugs and you get into a serious accident.
But your refusal will be admissible as evidence of guilt should your case go to trial.9 And the only way to fight a DUI test refusal is to show that the officer had no probable cause to require one in the first place. Which can be difficult when someone was injured by your driving.
There is another thing to think about before refusing a blood test in a vehicular assault case. If the officer suspects that you were DUI, your blood can be taken against your will. And the results of an involuntary blood test can be used against you.
Regardless of what you decide, it is vital that you contact an experienced Colorado DUI lawyer at your earliest opportunity. The sooner we get to work on your behalf, the easier it is to find evidence in your favor. But even if you've delayed, the important thing is to contact a skilled Colorado criminal defense attorney as soon as you are able.
If you seriously injure someone as a result of driving recklessly in Colorado, it is a class 5 felony. Consequences can include:
- 1-3 years in a Colorado prison (with mandatory 2-year parole), and/or
- A fine of $1,000-$100,000.
Alternatively, depending on your driving and criminal history (if any), the judge might sentence you to probation with community service and alcohol or drug treatment and/or education.
It is a more serious class 4 felony if you seriously injure someone while driving under the influence. Although probation is possible, consequences can include:
- 2-6 years in a Colorado prison (with mandatory 3-year parole), and/or
- A fine of $2,000-$500,000.
The best defenses to Colorado vehicular assault under 18-3-205, C.R.S. depend on:
- Whether the charge is for reckless driving or DUI,
- How severely the alleged victim is injured, and
- The facts of your case.
However, common defenses to vehicular assault often include (without limitation):
- You didn't drive (the "no driving" defense).
- You weren't driving recklessly.
- You didn't drive under the influence.
- Your DUI breath test or DUI blood test wasn't conducted in accordance with Colorado regulations.
- The results of your DUI chemical test weren't reliable.
- The witness accounts were inconsistent.
- The alleged victim wasn't seriously injured.
- The officer didn't properly advise you of your rights.
- There was serious police misconduct.
Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been charged with vehicular assault under 18-3-106, C.R.S., we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
Remember – vehicular assault is charged only when there is a very serious injury. In such cases, the police and prosecution want to hold someone accountable.
But in their haste to secure a conviction, police and prosecutors often make mistakes. They bring charges that are too serious for the injury. Sometimes they even bring charges against innocent people.
That's where we come in. Like all the best Colorado DUI attorneys, we know how to use holes in the prosecution's case to get your charges reduced – or even dismissed altogether. Or we can fight to get you probation and the help you need instead of prison time.
Our Colorado DUI attorneys are standing by to help you fight. To reach us, use the form on this page, or contact us at our convenient Denver home office:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street ste. 400
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202
- 18-1-901(3) (p), C.R.S.
- 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(A), C.R.S.
- 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(III)(A), C.R.S.
- 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(A), C.R.S.
- 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(III)(A), C.R.S.
- See, e.g., People v. Garner (1989) 781 P.2d 87, 89 (discussing vehicular homicide, a similar strict liability offense).
- 18-3-205 (2)(c), C.R.S.
- 18-3-205 (2)(d), C.R.S.
- 18-3-205 (4)(f), C.R.S.