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Serious bodily injury while drunk driving is severely punished

Pennsylvania imposes potentially severe punishment on those who are convicted of causing serious bodily injury to another person as the result of driving under the influence. The offense is a second-degree felony with punishment of up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $25,000, or both. Recently, the state police arrested a 42-year-old woman for that crime and a slew of other violations, including drunk driving.

The Pennsylvania State Police allege that the accused was driving her vehicle in a westerly direction on Route 6 in Pittsfield Township. They allege that her vehicle crossed over into the oncoming lane of traffic, veered back into the westbound lane and crashed into a guard-rail. The vehicle rolled over after hitting the guard rail and moved 50 feet while on its roof, then rolled another 150 feet while on its passenger side.

The accused was reportedly taken to the Corry Memorial Hospital prior to the arrival of the Pennsylvania State Police. The police found a passenger stuck in the SUV when they arrived on the scene. The affidavit of probable cause states that the accused admitted to drinking prior to operating her vehicle, which, however, raises the issue whether that confession to drinking was given voluntarily.

Aggravated assault by DUI requires that the accused negligently cause serious bodily injury to a pedestrian, someone in another vehicle or even to a passenger in the alleged drunk driver's vehicle. The prosecution must, however, get over a number of hurdles to prove the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The blood test issues must be proved, including that consent was given for a blood test.

There must be sufficient evidence of alcohol or drugs in the person's system. Importantly, under Pennsylvania law it must be proved that the injured person suffered serious and permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of any bodily member or organ. That may be difficult to prove and the felony charge may be susceptible to a successful defense. The drunk driving charge itself may be more easily proved, depending on how strong a case the prosecution has on the foregoing issues.

Source: timesobserver.com, "Corry woman charged after crash in Pittsfield", Brian Ferry, Dec. 5, 2017

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