Many auto accidents are simply that—an accident. However, in some situations, an accident may be caused by criminal behavior on the part of a driver. Under other circumstances, a collision may truly be accidental but a prosecutor may believe that you violated the law and may issue charges. The following are only some examples of criminal charges that you may face following a motor vehicle accident.
Aggravated Assault by a Vehicle charges
A prosecutor can issue charges for aggravated assault by a vehicle1 if they believe that the following occurred:
- You caused serious bodily injury to someone else while driving;
- You were driving in either a reckless manner or “with gross negligence;”
- You violated a municipal traffic ordinance or Pennsylvania traffic law.
Under such circumstances, you may face third-degree felony charges, which are extremely serious. If convicted of a third-degree felony, you could be sentenced to a fine of up to $15,000 and up to seven years of imprisonment.
In order to secure a conviction, a prosecutor must prove that you were not using reasonable care at the time of the accident. Proving a state of mind is difficult and arguments are usually based on circumstantial evidence. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can challenge this evidence to demonstrate that the accident was not the result of recklessness or gross negligence but was simply an accident.
Aggravated Assault while driving under the influence
The charges and penalties can increase substantially if the law that you allegedly violated was driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. This is a separate charge under Pennsylvania law and is charged as a second-degree felony. The maximum penalties for a second-degree penalty include a $25,000 fine and 10 years in state prison.
In order to convict you of this particular charge, a prosecutor must also sufficiently prove that you had a controlled substance in your system or that your blood alcohol content was over the legal limit. This is often achieved through presenting breath or blood test results or circumstantial evidence of intoxication. Fortunately, there are many ways that a skilled attorney can defend against allegations of driving under the influence, such as challenging the accuracy of test results. If the DUI allegations cannot be proven, the charges will at least be reduced if not dropped completely.
Be careful what you say following an accident
If you are in an accident that has caused serious injury, you should always be very careful about you statements and actions. For instance, one recent case made headlines3 regarding a man’s statements after he side-swiped a passing motorcyclist and caused serious injuries to the motorcycle passenger. Another motorist caught the accident on video on their cell phone and was recording the man after the collision. After being told that he hit the motorcycle, the driver responded by repeatedly saying, “I don’t care!” This action led prosecutors to believe that he may have intentionally swerved into the motorcycle and charged him with two counts of aggravated assault.
Later, the driver told the media that he swerved because a bug bit him and caused an accidental jerk of the wheel. However, because of his recorded statements following the collision, it seemed to prosecutors that the driver was neither surprised by the collision nor remorseful for the injuries caused. Perhaps for this reason, they did not believe his explanation regarding the insect and proceeded with serious criminal charges. Though this collision occurred in Texas, the same caution should be taken after an accident in Pennsylvania. Anything you say following the collision may be used against you in any subsequent criminal case.
Contact an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible
Aggravated assault is a serious offense, whether or not alcohol was involved. In addition to jail time and costly fines, a felony conviction on your criminal record can have a wide range of additional consequences that may affect your professional opportunities, educational pursuits, and other aspects of your life. If you have been accused of aggravated assault with a vehicle, DUI, or any other type of criminal offense, your first call should be to a qualified Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer at The Zeiger Firm. We will build an aggressive defense against your charges and will ensure your rights are protected through every stage of your case. Call today at 215-546-0340 to find out more about how we can help you.