Drivers who cause or attempt to cause injury to another person by driving recklessly or aggressively face serious criminal charges. A motorist can be charged with “vehicular assault” in various states if he or she intentionally injures another person with a car or as a result of being inattentive, negligent, or inebriated behind the wheel. In some situations, a conviction for vehicular assault can result in years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, and the loss of one’s driver’s license. This article defines a vehicular assault charge, aggravated vehicular assaults, and the penalties that may result from a conviction in Ohio.
What Is the Definition of a Motor Vehicle?
Depending on state law, the term “motor vehicle” can refer to a car, a truck, an SUV, a snowmobile, an all-terrain vehicle, a watercraft, an aircraft, or a train.
Situations of Vehicular Assaults
The conditions that lead to a charge of vehicular assault or a related offense vary by state.
Driving under the influence
Several states define vehicular assaults as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causing serious bodily harm to another. A driver is guilty of vehicular assault if he drives while inebriated and causes injury to another person, according to various state statutes (it need not be “serious”). Because driving under the influence and vehicular assaults are considered separate acts, a driver in this situation may face both charges.
Driving while intoxicated or high on drugs is defined as driving while intoxicated or high on drugs, or driving with a blood alcohol content above a certain level (at least DEFINITION, .08 BAC). Most state laws permit the use of information concerning a person’s blood-alcohol level at the time of driving to assess whether or not the individual was driving while drunk.
- Over the legal limit: If the driver’s blood-alcohol level (BAC) was higher than the legal limit specified by the state’s DUI statute, the judge or jury may infer that the defendant was driving while intoxicated or impaired.
- Lower below the top limit: If the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is less than a certain level, the court or jury can infer the defendant was not intoxicated or under the influence. The prosecutor can introduce other evidence, such as proof that the driver had been drinking, that his driving was impaired and that his impaired driving caused the incident, to prove that the driver was under the influence.
- Between the legal maximum and a lower proportion: Finally, if the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was between the legal limit and some lower percentage stated in the state’s DUI statute, the court or jury can utilize the information to evaluate whether the defendant was under the influence. In Ohio, for example, the legal limit for DUI is.08 BAC. If the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is between.05 and.08, the BAC can be utilized to assess whether or not the driver was impaired. If the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was less than.05, he was presumed to be sober.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as careless operation of a motor vehicle
Driving recklessly and causing serious injury to another person is grounds for a vehicular assault charge in some states. In some states, such as Delaware, a motorist who negligently controls a motor vehicle and causes serious injury is also charged with vehicular assaults.
When a person drives recklessly, he is doing so in a way that he knows or recognizes is exceedingly dangerous or likely to result in an accident or other serious incident. The emphasis is on the fact that the motorist was aware that his actions posed an unreasonable risk and chose to proceed despite this risk.
A negligent driver fails to exercise the caution that a reasonable person would or fails to recognize a potentially hazardous situation. This is also referred to as “careless driving,” and it is defined as failing to exercise the reasonable care that a reasonable motorist should. This motorist is considered careless but not reckless by the law.
Significant bodily harm or significant physical injury
Serious bodily harm or damage refers to injuries that are life-threatening, permanently debilitating, result in lifelong scarring, or need the amputation of a limb or organ. Face bruises are not considered serious bodily harm. Injuries to the face that require surgery or leave visible, disfiguring scars are most likely. Similarly, major internal injuries or shattered bones as a result of being hit by an automobile are considered serious bodily harm under most criminal statutes.
Other reasons that can result in a vehicular assault charge
In certain states, if you drive while your driver’s license is suspended or revoked and cause serious injury to another person as a result of a collision, you may be charged with vehicular assault. This law does not need you to have been driving recklessly, irresponsibly, or under the influence.
In Ohio, a driver can be charged with vehicular assault if he hits and injures a pedestrian or bicyclist while driving.
Criminal Acts Relating To Vehicular Assault In Ohio
Essentially, vehicular assaults restrictions contain components of broader criminal laws that make assault and battery illegal. Instead of developing restrictions that only apply to vehicle-related offenses, several jurisdictions simply pass assault and battery legislation.
Assaults: No physical contact or actual hurt occurs.
A driver is prosecuted for vehicular assault in many locations only if he or she causes bodily harm to another person. However, traditional definitions of assault include intentionally putting another person in reasonable fear of immediate bodily harm. In other words, a person can be charged with assault even if they did not cause bodily harm.
A driver who grows upset and purposefully swerves at or towards another vehicle, nearly colliding, could be charged with assault.
Battery: Some Physical Contact Is Required
The battery is commonly defined as any illegal physical contact with another person. Hitting someone with a car would unquestionably qualify. In general, a person must have acted deliberately or with gross negligence to be charged with violence. Pure accidents, such as vehicular assault, do not normally qualify as a battery.
Vehicular Assaults vs. Aggravated Vehicular Assault
There are two tiers of vehicular assault charges in Ohio. You may be prosecuted with vehicular assault if you operate a motor vehicle negligently and cause serious physical harm to another person or an unborn baby under Ohio Revised Code 2903.08. If you are suspected of speeding or driving carelessly in a construction zone, you may potentially be prosecuted with vehicular assault.
You are charged with aggravated vehicular assault if you are accused of causing significant physical harm to another person or an unborn fetus while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A “vehicle” is more than just a car or someone who drives. If you operate a boat or a plane, you could be charged with vehicular assault or aggravated vehicular assault in addition to operating a car, motorcycle, or truck.
Penalties for a Vehicular Assault Conviction
The majority of vehicular assaults are criminal assaults. Vehicular assault, on the other hand, might be charged as a serious misdemeanor crime. In the state of Ohio, vehicular assault is charged and penalized in the following ways:
A 1st-degree misdemeanor is punished if you are convicted of injuring another person or an unborn fetus while speeding in a marked construction zone. There is an obligatory minimum jail term of 7 days, with a maximum penalty of 180 days. A $1,000 fine could be levied against you.
Under some circumstances, the offense is a 4th-degree felony punishable by 6 to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
- You are speeding in a construction zone when your license is suspended, you have a previous vehicular assault conviction, or you have any prior convictions for a traffic-related assault or death.
- Driving carelessly and endangering another person or an unborn child
- Driving erratically in a construction zone
Vehicular assault is a third-degree felony punishable by 12 to 60 months in prison and a $10,000 fine if you inflict serious injury while driving recklessly and:
- You either do not have a license or your license is suspended.
- You’ve been convicted of vehicular assault in the past.
- You have a prior conviction for any traffic-related death or assault.
- You also failed to come to a complete stop at an accident scene.
Driver’s license suspension
In addition to a jail or prison sentence and fines, a conviction for vehicular assault carries a driver’s license suspension. The length of your suspension is determined by the details of your vehicular assault charge as well as whether or not you have a prior conviction for a traffic-related assault or death.
- 1 to 5 Years — If you are convicted of vehicular assault for causing harm while speeding in a construction zone, driving recklessly in a construction zone, or driving recklessly in general, your license will be suspended for 1 to 5 years.
- 2 to 10 Years — Your license will be suspended for 2 to 10 years if you are convicted of vehicular assault and have a prior conviction or any traffic-related assault or death.
Penalties for Aggravated Vehicular Assault Conviction
Aggravated vehicular assault is always a felony charge in Ohio. Convictions can result in the following punishments:
When you cause serious injury by driving recklessly while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with aggravated vehicular assault, a 3rd-degree felony punishable by 12 to 60 months in jail, and a $10,000 fine.
Aggravated vehicular assault is a 2nd-degree felony punishable by 2 to 8 years in prison and a $15,000 fine if you cause substantial injury while driving recklessly while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and:
- Have ever been convicted of aggravated vehicular assault or vehicular assault
- Have been convicted of a traffic-related assault or death
- Been convicted of three or more OVI/DUI offenses in the recent six years?
- Have three or more prior convictions for operating a watercraft while drunk or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Have three or more prior convictions for unsafe aircraft operation
- Having three or more prior convictions for OVI/DUI, driving a watercraft while drunk, or engaging in a dangerous aviation operation.
- Have at least two felony OVI/DUI convictions
Driver’s license Suspension
Your driver’s license will be suspended if you are convicted of aggravated vehicular assault. The length of your suspension is determined by the circumstances surrounding your aggravated vehicular assault conviction, as well as any previous convictions for traffic-related assault or death.
2 to 10 Years — If you are convicted for the first time of the aggravated vehicular assault, your license will be suspended for 2 to 10 years.
If you have a past conviction for a traffic-related assault or death, your license can be suspended for up to three years.
Defending Your Vehicular Assault Charge
In order to convict you of vehicular assault, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- Driving a car
- Made a hasty decision.
- Inflicted significant harm on another person or an unborn child
In order to charge you with aggravated vehicular assault, a prosecutor must also prove that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
You may be able to defend yourself against the vehicular assault charge if you can disprove any of those charges. For example, if you weren’t the one driving or if you can demonstrate that the other person’s injuries were caused by something other than your driving, you may be able to challenge the charge. In an aggravated vehicular assault case, you may be able to challenge the results of breath, blood, or urine tests used by the prosecutor as evidence of intoxication.
An experienced Ohio vehicular assault lawyer can review the facts and evidence in your case and explain your defense options. Your attorney can talk to you about the prospect of getting your charge dismissed or reduced, and he or she can help you make an informed decision about how to proceed with your case.