There are two different ways that a person can be prosecuted for vehicular assault.
- If a person is accused of driving recklessly and that reckless driving causes serious bodily injury to another person, they can be charged with vehicular assault as a class 5 felony.
- If a person is accused of driving while intoxicated (by alcohol, drugs or both), and there is an accident which causes serious bodily injury to another, they can be charged with vehicular assault and that charge is a more serious class 4 felony.
The term “serious bodily injury,” refers to an injury which is not minor such as a bump or bruise, but a broken bone, an injury to an internal organ, permanent disfigurement or some other “serious” injury.
It is somewhat more difficult to prove the less serious vehicular assault based on reckless driving, and when a person is charged with vehicular assault (reckless) they are more likely to be able to negotiate a plea bargain to a misdemeanor. The main reason for this is that if the case were to go to trial, the jury could determine that the person was only driving “carelessly” and if that were the case that individual would only suffer a conviction for “Careless Driving Resulting in Injury” which is a traffic misdemeanor.
It is also the case that to convict an individual of vehicular assault (reckless), the District Attorney (the prosecutor) has to prove that that person caused the accident which resulted in the serious bodily injury.
On the other hand if a person is charged with vehicular assault based on driving while intoxicated, the DA does not need to prove causation. The crime of vehicular assault based on impaired driving is said to be a “strict liability” crime and the DA does not need to prove anything other than that the person was driving while impaired (DUI or DWAI) and that another person sustained “serious bodily injury” as a consequence of those acts.
A conviction for the crime of vehicular assault based on impaired driving carries a potential prison sentence of 2-6 years although there is no mandatory sentence and it is possible for a person convicted under this subsection to receive a probationary sentence.
A conviction for the crime of vehicular assault based on reckless driving carries a potential prison sentence of 1-3 years and again it is possible to be sentenced to probation rather than prison.
If you or someone you know has been charged with vehicular assault in Colorado, you should call an experienced vehicular assault attorney for a consultation. That consultation is free and we will help you to understand this complicated area of the law and help you develop a strategy to minimize the impact on your life.