Recently a Georgia man was sentenced to prison because of an accident that occurred on Super Bowl Sunday this past February. On that day Jerry Lee Scott, of Cobb County, was driving with five other people in his car, including two adults and three children. The children were Scott's daughters and granddaughter. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he caused a collision when “he turned left in front of a pickup truck . . . at Veteran's Memorial Highway and Austell Road.”
One of his daughter's, who is just seven years old, was seriously injured as a result of the accident and suffered “a cracked skull, partial paralysis, and brain trauma.” The Marietta Patch reported that “[w]hile she was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, responding officers noticed Scott had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.” His BAC was later found to be well over the legal limit, at 0.195. Last month Scott pleaded guilty to four counts including three counts of endangering a child while driving under the influence and one count of serious injury by vehicle. Though his attorneys asked that probation be a part of his sentence, the judge did not oblige them. Instead, he sentenced Scott to spend six years behind bars.
This case shows how a DUI can become a much more serious offense. While a DUI is typically a misdemeanor in Georgia, if someone is badly injured in an accident, then the driver could be charged with serious Injury by vehicle instead, which is a felony. Under Georgia law, Serious Injury by Vehicle is defined as:
“Whoever, without malice, shall cause bodily harm to another by depriving him of a member of his body, by rendering a member of his body useless, by seriously disfiguring his body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless through the violation of Code Section 40-6-390 or 40-6-391 shall be guilty of the crime of serious injury by vehicle.” O.G.C.A. § 40-6-394.
This offense is punishable by a minimum of one year prison and a maximum sentence of up to 15 years. It is important to note that if there is more than one person injured because of the driver's conduct then the driver can be charged with multiple counts of serious injury by vehicle. Thus, if three people are badly hurt because of an intoxicated driver caused a crash, the driver could be facing three serious injury by vehicle charges. However, what a person is charged with and what a person is convicted of are not always the same thing. What a person is ultimately found guilty of will depend on a number of factors including the facts and circumstances of the case, the results of plea negotiations, and/or the outcome at trial.