Vehicular Assault in New York Overview
Vehicular assault is considered a felony in the state of New York and is caused from a motor vehicle accident where serious physical injuries occur due to the driver’s intoxication or drug impairment. There are three degrees: Second Degree for basic offenses, First Degree for aggravating factors like high blood alcohol levels or a minor in the vehicle, and Aggravated Vehicular Assault, which includes reckless driving. Serious physical injury, a key component, implies a risk of death or significant long-term impairment. Sentencing and penalties vary by degree, with up to four years for Second Degree, seven for First Degree, and fifteen for Aggravated Vehicular Assault. Given the severe consequences, including prison and loss of driving privileges, expert legal representation is crucial for anyone charged.
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What is Vehicular Assault in NY?
If you cause a motor vehicle accident which leads to another person suffering serious physical injuries and the police allege that you were driving while intoxicated or driving while your ability to do so was impaired by drugs, you will be charged with vehicular assault. There are three different degrees of vehicular assault and they are all felonies. The least serious charge is Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree. There are several circumstances which would elevate the charge Vehicular Assault in the First Degree. These include if your blood alcohol content was above a .18, if you have a prior DWI Conviction within the preceding ten years, if your license is suspended or revoked due to a prior DWI, if you have a passenger less than fifteen years old, or if there is more than one person who sustained serious physical injuries. The highest charge for vehicular assault is Aggravated Vehicular Assault. The charge is identical to Vehicular Assault in the First Degree with the added element that you were driving your vehicle recklessly.
Besides intoxication, one of the key elements is that the individual sustained a serious physical injury. In New York, this means that the person suffered a physical injury which created a substantial risk of death, or which caused death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ. In other words, the injury must be more significant than simply having pain from the accident and usually may include broken bones, an injury requiring surgery, or an injury that significantly impacts someone’s ability to complete their daily activities.
A person convicted of Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree faces up to four years in prison. A person convicted of Vehicular Assault in the First Degree faces up to seven years in prison. A person convicted of Aggravated Vehicular Assault faces up to fifteen years in prison.
Degrees of Vehicular Assault in NY
There are three degrees of vehicular assault in NY. The least serious is Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree and it is a class E felony. This charge occurs when it is alleged that a person operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired by drugs and causes an accident that leads to another person suffering a serious physical injury.
Vehicular Assault in the First Degree is a class D felony and requires the additional element that a driver’s blood alcohol content was over a .18, he/she had a prior DWI within the preceding 10 years, he/she had a license suspended or revoked due to a prior DWI, there was a child under fifteen in the vehicle, or that two or more individuals suffered serious physical injuries.
Finally, Aggravated Vehicular Assault requires the same elements as Vehicular Assault in the First Degree and the allegation that they were driving recklessly. Aggravated Vehicular Assault is a class C felony.
Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree
Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree includes the following elements:
- A person operates a motor vehicle,
- while operating the vehicle, the person is doing so while intoxicated by alcohol, while impaired by drugs, or impaired by a combination of drugs and alcohol, and
- operates the motor vehicle in a manner that causes serious physical injury to another person.
Operating a motor vehicle has its ordinary meaning. You can also be charged with this charge while operating a boat, snow mobile, or all-terrain vehicle.
Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree is a class E felony and carries a maximum sentence of between 1 1/3 to 4 years in a NYS prison.
Vehicular Assault in the First Degree
Vehicular Assault in the First Degree is a more serious charge than Vehicular Assault in the Second Degree. It contains the same elements but requires one of the following aggravated circumstances:
- Your blood alcohol content was over a .18, or
- You have a prior conviction for a DWI within the preceding ten years, or
- You are operating the motor vehicle while your license is suspended or revoked due to a DWI, or
- You have a child less than fifteen years old in the vehicle, or
- You cause serious physical injuries to more than one person.
Vehicular Assault in the First Degree is a class D felon and carries a maximum sentence of between 2 1/3 to 7 years in a NYS prison.
Aggravated Vehicular Assault
Aggravated Vehicular Assault requires the same elements as Vehicular Assault in the First Degree, but also requires the additional element that you were driving recklessly. Under NYS law, this means that you drove your vehicle in a manner which unreasonably interfered with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangered users of the public highway.
Aggravated Vehicular Assault is a class C felony and carries a maximum sentence of between 5 and 15 years in a NYS prison.
Sentences and Punishment for Vehicular Assault
Each degree of vehicular assault carries a potential prison sentence. Each sentence is described above. However, it is important to remember that no matter what degree of vehicular assault you are facing, you are also eligible for non-prison sentences, which may include probation or a local jail sentence of up to one year. Additionally, these charges carry additional penalties such as monetary fines, the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, revocation of your driver’s license, and required participation in various programs and treatment.
Types of Vehicles involved in Vehicular Assault Cases
You can be charged with vehicular assault if you were driving any of the following:
- motor vehicle
- all-terrain vehicle.
Allegations in a NY Vehicular Assault Case
To be charged with vehicular assault, the police must allege that you were driving a motor vehicle (or another type of vehicle listed above), that you did so while intoxicated or impaired by drugs, and caused a serious physical injury to another person.
1. Operation of a Motor Vehicle
Operation of a motor vehicle means, in simple terms, driving a motor vehicle, and carries its ordinary meaning.
2. Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs
Under our law, a person is considered to be driving while intoxicated when they are driving with a blood alcohol content of above a .08. However, the police do not necessarily need to know a person’s blood alcohol content to charge you with DWI. They must simply alleged that you were not capable of operating your motor vehicle as a reasonable and prudent driver. This usually happens when a motorist refuses to provide the police with a breath or blood sample to determine their blood alcohol content. For a person who is alleged to have been impaired by drugs, they simply must allege that the motorist’s ability to drive was impaired, to any extent, usually a lower standard than DWI by alcohol.
3. Serious Physical Injury
Serious physical injury is defined in the penal law and includes any physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ. While not necessary, a serious physical injury usually includes a broken bone, a need for surgery, or a condition that significantly impacts a person’s daily life, such as the ability to walk or complete other daily activities. It requires more than a person simply alleging that they were in pain.
The person suffering the serious physical injury may be a passenger in the accused’s vehicle, may be in another vehicle, or may be a pedestrian or someone else on the side of the road, such as a bicyclist.
Vehicular Assault Lawyers in NY
If you are charged with vehicular assault in NY, it is important that you seek representation from a lawyer that specializes in vehicular assault. At King Law, our attorneys are experts in defending vehicular assault cases. From preparing a defense strategy, to navigating the nuanced laws surrounding vehicular assaults, we are prepared to assist you from the outset. Being charged with vehicular assault carries many immediate consequences, such as the loss of employment, incarceration, and a suspension of your driving privileges, but also carries many long term consequences such as imprisonment and the long-term revocation of your driving privileges.