Vehicular Assault is a Tennessee felony offense committed when a person, as a result of intoxication, causes serious bodily injury to another person by operating a motor vehicle. It is often charged, along with DUI, when an impaired driving incident seriously injures someone else. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, the outcome of conviction could range from a short period of probation up to several years in prison. The Court of Criminal Appeals recently upheld an eight year prison sentence for a defendant convicted of two counts of vehicular homicide arising from the same incident. State v. Colbert, M2012-00225-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 11-9-2012).
The defendant in the Colbert case had been drinking at a bar and become drunk. Friends arrived and took him to another residence, where he was able to access his keys and his vehicle. Though his friends sought to prevent him from driving, the defendant managed to lock himself in his truck and drive away, with his friends following. The defendant driving at very high speed swerved into the oncoming lane, and crashed head on into another vehicle occupied by a lady and her five year old niece. Both the occupants of that vehicle were seriously injured. The child's injuries from the crash resulted her being unable to breathe on her own for two weeks, having a gash in her trachea, a tear in her colon, and permanent damage to her spinal cord. A year after the crash, the child's injuries still required her to be catherized four times a day and to receive breathing treatments. She was confined to a wheel chair and had only a two percent chance of ever walking again.
Facing a number of charges arising from the incident, including DUI, vehicular assault, and aggravated assault, the Defendant accepted a plea agreement under which he would plead guilty to two counts of vehicular assault. At a subsequent sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed four years in prison on each of the counts, to be served consecutive to each other. The trial court noted the defendant had a prior history of criminal behavior (though he was still a standard, Range 1 offender), the injuries inflicted on the child victim were particularly serious, and that confinement was necessary to avoid depreciating the seriousness of the offense and to deter others from drinking and driving. The defendant sought the trial court's reconsideration of the sentence and then appealed the sentence. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the sentence, finding it properly within the discretion of the trial court.
For more information on possible criminal consequences that can arise from incidents of driving under the influence, contact Hindman and Associates.