Car accidents can be scary and traumatic, but sometimes, the most terrifying part is what happens afterward. There are usually car repair costs, medical bills, and higher insurance premiums to deal with. What’s worse is that there may even be criminal charges or civil suits brought against you, depending on how “at fault” the court finds you.
When these issues come up following a Portland or Woodburn auto accident, it’s best to know what you’re in store for and what steps you can take to lessen the penalties. By staying informed, you can prepare yourself for the legal challenges you might face and also create a better argument for your own side of the story.
In this article, we’ll explore the criminal penalties that are usually associated with car accidents in Oregon and what you can do to prepare for them. We’ll also discuss how to improve your defense by arguing your side of the story in a way the court will understand. If your defense is handled correctly, you may end up with less severe charges or a dismissal of your case entirely. To talk about the specifics of your situation with an experienced and knowledgeable auto accident attorney, call Zbinden & Curtis Attorneys At Law today.
DUI and Reckless Driving
If a car accident involves driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless driving, it’s treated seriously and oftentimes, severely. For DUI, first-time offenders face fines starting at $1,000, a 1-year license suspension, and possible jail time for up to 1 year. Repeat offenses lead to harsher penalties, like longer license suspensions or higher fines. Reckless driving, which is defined as a “disregard for the safety of other drivers,” also leads to fines, license suspension, and potential jail time. These two categories are often linked, and Oregon aims to reduce these behaviors by enforcing strict penalties against them.
Hit and Run
Leaving the scene of an accident, especially when there’s injury or damage, is considered a hit-and-run. Oregon law requires drivers to stop and exchange information every time a collision occurs. Failing to do so can lead to criminal charges that range from a misdemeanor to a felony. If the accident results in only property damage, the hit-and-run offender could face a Class A misdemeanor charge and up to one year in jail. If the hit and run causes injury, it is considered a Class C felony and carries a maximum of five years in state prison and fines up to $125,000. If a death occurs, the penalties can be even more severe. The prison time and fines may double after a conviction, based on the judge’s decision and the details of the case.
Vehicular Assault or Manslaughter
In Oregon, a driver responsible for a serious injury or death will face severe legal consequences. The severity of the charges is based on the driver’s behavior and how much damage the accident caused. For instance, accidentally causing a death can lead to a minimum of 3 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. If the accident involved reckless driving or occurred under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the driver could face even harsher penalties, like longer prison sentences or even higher fines.
Oregon’s Driving Regulations
Unlike many states, Oregon does not use a point system for traffic violations. Instead, it uses the Driver Improvement Program (DIP), which assesses drivers based on their traffic convictions and accidents. If an adult driver is involved in three traffic convictions or preventable accidents within 24 months, their license can be restricted. This restriction prohibits driving between midnight and 5 a.m. for 30 days unless it’s for employment. Failing to follow these restrictions can result in further actions like years of license suspension. For teen drivers, the DIP is stricter. Two traffic violations or accidents can lead to a 90-day restriction.
Driver Rehabilitation Programs and Deferment
Oregons’s harsh penalties for severe traffic violations are well known. However, the court also has protocols for people who simply made a one-time mistake. Oregon’s driver rehabilitation programs are aimed at educating drivers of all ages about the difficult realities of car accidents. Programs like Trauma Nurses Talk Tough present drivers with video and testimony from car accident victims. They show what can happen when a driver is reckless, distracted, or under the influence.
Oregon’s traffic violation deferment program may help you avoid the more severe legal consequences of your charges if you qualify. To be eligible, the charge must be the first offense on your record in the last five years. For the charge to be dropped entirely from your record, you must complete all the requirements of the program, including:
- Pay Diversion Fees: You need to pay all the fees to the court. If you can’t afford them, tell the judge, and the court might reduce the fees or let you pay over time.
- Pay Restitution: This is money paid to the victims for any damage or loss caused by your accident.
- Drug and Alcohol Assessment: The court will send you to an agency for an assessment of your use of drugs and alcohol. If the assessment determines you need treatment, you must complete it before the charge will be removed.
- Attend Victim Impact Panel: Go to a meeting where victims of auto accidents talk about their experiences.
- No Alcohol or Drugs: You are restricted from the use of alcohol or drugs while you’re in the diversion program. The only exceptions are religious ceremonies, prescribed medications, and certain over-the-counter medicines.
- Use an Ignition Interlock Device (IID): If the court decides your drug or alcohol use was the cause of the accident, you may need to install an IID in any vehicle you drive. This device checks if you have alcohol on your breath before the car starts.
Zbinden & Curtis Attorneys At Law
Regardless of what caused your accident, the legal penalties can be harsh. Sometimes, the courts focus so hard on curbing dangerous behavior that individuals who simply make a mistake are unfairly punished. If this has happened to you, call Zbinden & Curtis Attorneys At Law today at (503) 287-5000. We can defend your rights and make sure that your side of the story gets told.