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What happens if a DUI leads to serious injury or death?

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2023 | Criminal Defense

In a general sense, drunk driving is reckless behavior. Alcohol reduces a person’s reasoning ability and muscle coordination, so drunk drivers are at high risk of causing a collision.

To prevent these collisions, U.S. states all have laws outlawing drunk driving. In North Dakota, any driver caught inebriated behind the wheel can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

But what happens if a deadly accident involving a drunk driver actually occurs? On top of a DUI, the state can charge the drunk driver with additional criminal offenses depending on whether another person got injured or killed because of the accident.

Special punishment for drunk drivers causing injuries or death in North Dakota

Suppose a driver convicted of DUI causes substantial bodily injury to another individual due to their drunk driving. In that case, they can face a separate charge for the offense of criminal vehicular injury. Per North Dakota law, the offense is a Class C felony, and a conviction leads to at least a year in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines. However, if the driver has a prior DUI conviction, a court can extend their minimum prison sentence to two years.

If a DUI-convicted driver causes the death of another person or an unborn child, a court can charge them with criminal vehicular homicide. This is a Class A felony with at least three years of imprisonment and a maximum $20,000 fine. But if the driver has a previous DUI conviction, the court can raise the minimum prison time the driver must serve to ten years.

Similar penalties in Minnesota

The neighboring state of Minnesota also has similar rules and penalties for drivers convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) who have caused injuries or deaths.

Drivers convicted of DWI who’ve caused bodily injuries to another can face charges of criminal vehicular operation. Depending on the severity of the injuries caused, a conviction can lead to at least a year in prison and $3,000 in fines – or up to five years of prison time plus $10,000 in fines for the most grievous injuries inflicted.

To summarize, drunk driving that leads to another person suffering an injury or dying leads to an additional criminal offense. Even if the driver’s DUI/DWI conviction was only a misdemeanor, the accompanying conviction for injuring or killing another person is a felony, which comes with harsher penalties. Drivers should consider their legal options if facing multiple charges related to drunk driving offenses.