blog Violent Crime Intent and Proximate Cause in Vehicular Assault Cases

Intent and Proximate Cause in Vehicular Assault Cases

By Colorado Attorney-at-law on October 30, 2023

If you cause an accident while driving and someone is seriously injured, you may be facing civil and criminal prosecution. In a civil case, the injured party would seek damages, which is a monetary award that’s paid to the victim as compensation for a loss or injury.

A criminal case is conducted by the local district attorney. You may be subjected to serious penalties if convicted of vehicular assault, including jail time and heavy fines.

If you are currently being investigated by the police, or if you have been charged with vehicular assault, speak with an experienced Summit County criminal defense attorney right away to protect your freedom and your future.

What Is Vehicular Assault?

In Colorado, the driver’s intent is not relevant to whether or not vehicular assault has occurred. Vehicular assault is a strict liability crime, and that means the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove whether the defendant intended to harm someone.

You can be charged with vehicular assault if you are driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol and your actions are the proximate cause of serious bodily injury. In legal terms, proximate cause means that the victim’s injuries are the “natural and probable” consequences of the driver’s misconduct.

For example, if an intoxicated driver runs a stop sign and crashes into a pedestrian who is using the crosswalk to cross the street, the driver’s behavior would be considered the proximate cause of any injuries the pedestrian suffers as a result of the accident.

If the pedestrian suffers further injuries that were not caused by the accident, the driver would not be liable. For example, if the pedestrian is further injured due to the ambulance they are traveling crashing on the way to the hospital, the driver who hit them in the crosswalk initially would not be legally responsible for those injuries.

Under Colorado law, serious bodily injury occurs when any of the following conditions occur at the time of injury:

  • Substantial risk of death
  • Substantial risk of serious personal disfigurement
  • Substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any body part or organ of the body
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Second- or third-degree burns

Reckless Driving and Vehicular Assault

When a driver is driving recklessly, vehicular assault is a Class 5 felony that carries penalties of up to three years in prison and fines of up to $100,000. Colorado law defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle, bicycle, electric bicycle, or scooter in a manner that indicates “wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” The definition of reckless driving is vague, leaving it open to interpretation by police officers, prosecutors, and judges. Reckless driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1000.

Careless driving is defined as “operating a bicycle, electric bicycle, or scooter in an imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and the use of streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances.” Careless driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor that carries up to 12 months in jail and fines of up to $1000.

The district attorney has a great deal of discretion when it comes to deciding whether to charge a driver for either careless driving or reckless driving. But it makes a huge difference when someone is injured because the law requires that a driver must be guilty of either reckless driving or DUI to be charged with vehicular assault.

DUI and Vehicular Assault

The legal penalties for vehicular assault that results from DUI are more harsh than the penalties for vehicular assault that results from reckless driving. DUI vehicular assault carries up to six years in prison and fines up to $500,000.

Under Colorado law, a person is driving under the influence when they have been using alcohol, one or more drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, and “the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.”

When the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is over 0.08, they are assumed to be under the influence and may be charged with a DUI. In Colorado, even if

Were You Charged with Vehicular Assault in Breckenridge?

It’s important to find a criminal defense lawyer who understands Colorado law and is familiar with local courts and how they operate. The Breckenridge vehicular assault attorneys at Whitaker & Penix, LLC will pursue the best strategy for getting your charges dismissed, dropped, or reduced.

Whitaker & Penix, LLC proudly holds an “A” rating from the Better Business Bureau. Kylie Whitaker has been recognized by Super Lawyers as one of Colorado’s 2023 Rising Stars due to outstanding peer reviews and professional achievement.

Call us at (970) 368-0602 to learn more today with a complimentary consultation.

Posted in: Violent Crime