Imagine this scenario: It is Halloween, the streets are filled with children trick-or-treating, and a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs hits a child. This chilling scenario is not only horrifying but also carries severe legal consequences in West Virginia.
Understanding DUI Laws in West Virginia
Before delving into the specific penalties associated with hitting a pedestrian while driving under the influence (DUI), it is essential to understand West Virginia's DUI laws. According to West Virginia Code §17C-5-2, it is illegal for any person to drive a vehicle in the state while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any combination thereof.
The Consequences of DUI
A first-time DUI offense in West Virginia is typically considered a misdemeanor. However, if a driver hits a pedestrian while DUI, the charges can escalate significantly.
DUI Resulting in Bodily Injury
If a drunk driver hits a pedestrian, causing bodily injury, they could be charged with DUI causing bodily injury. This is a felony offense under West Virginia Code §17C-5-2(e). The penalties include imprisonment of not less than two nor more than ten years, a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $3,000, or both.
DUI Resulting in Death
In the unfortunate event where a drunk driver hits a pedestrian resulting in death, the charge escalates to DUI causing death, which is a felony under West Virginia Code §17C-5-2(f). The penalties for this crime include imprisonment of not less than two nor more than fifteen years, a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $3,000, or both.
In addition to these criminal penalties, a driver convicted of hitting a pedestrian while under the influence may also face civil liability. The victim or their family could file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the driver, seeking damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.
Moreover, the driver's insurance premiums will likely skyrocket, and they may even lose their driving privileges altogether. Not to mention the emotional toll of knowing their actions caused harm or even death to an innocent person.
A Sobering Reminder
The chilling scenario of a drunk driver hitting a trick-or-treater on Halloween serves as a sobering reminder of the dangers and legal consequences of drunk driving. It is crucial always to choose a designated driver, use a rideshare service, or stay overnight if you plan on drinking.
Remember, safety is not just about protecting yourself but also about ensuring the well-being of those around you. This Halloween lets us all commit to keeping our streets safe for everyone.
Contact The Wagner Law Firm today.