What Happens If You Get A DUI And You Damage Property?
According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO), there were just over 1,500 alcohol-related crashes in Oklahoma in 2021 in which no one was injured or killed, also called “property damage only” crashes. The State doesn’t track whether the damage was to someone else’s property, but it’s a safe bet that many drunk drivers have clipped a mailbox, hit a fence, or run over landscaping while driving drunk. In Oklahoma, all of these examples count as driving under the influence (DUI) with property damage, and can lead to a more serious punishment.
Common Types of Property Damage Due to a DUI
Anytime you destroy or harm something owned by another person and it costs money to replace or repair it, that is property damage. Some of the most common types of DUIs with property damage include hitting:
- Another car or cars, whether parked or in motion
- Trees, shrubs, or landscaping
Keep in mind that the above laws and examples apply for property damage only. If you also caused personal injury, especially severe bodily injury, that will be a more serious charge and you can be held liable for more damages in civil court.
What If You Leave the Scene?
It’s a misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident in Oklahoma. According to Oklahoma Statutes Title 47, anyone who damages a vehicle, fixtures, or other property has a duty to “give information and render aid,” which means:
- Stop or return to the scene of the accident as soon as you can.
- Provide your correct name, address, and license, vehicle, and insurance information.
- If you can’t find the owner of the vehicle or property, Section 10-105 says that you must “leave in a conspicuous place … a written notice” with this information.
If you can’t find the property owner, it’s smart to call the police and file a report right away so you’re not accused of leaving the scene. If you do leave, there’s a punishment of up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
What Happens If You Get a DUI With Property Damage?
If you’re charged with a DUI with property damage in Oklahoma, your punishment will probably be harsher than it would for a simple DUI alone. Oklahoma law provides guidelines for sentencing after a DUI, but judges are typically given the freedom to use the law as they see fit.
For example, for a first DUI offense, the punishment is up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. But prosecutors will will often recommend:
- Deferred sentences for a first offense, meaning your case will be dismissed if you complete your probation, take your classes, and pay your fines. Only those with no previous criminal history can get a deferred sentence.
- Suspended sentences for a minor, nonviolent offense, which means the conviction stays on your record but you don’t serve jail time. Suspended sentences are reserved for those who don’t pose a risk to society.
If you damaged property while driving under the influence, you can also be required to pay restitution to the party whose property was damaged. That means you’ll have to pay them back for the damage.
It will be up to the judge to examine the facts of your case and decide on your punishment, up to the maximums listed above. But if you damaged property while under the influence or left the scene of the crime, the judge will probably give you a harsher punishment. You can also be taken to civil court by the property owner.
Civil Suits for Property Damage in Oklahoma
In addition to your DUI charge and restitution payment, the property owner can take you to civil court to recover:
- The costs to repair or replace the damaged property
- The “post-repair diminution in value,” or the loss of property value (for example, a car that’s been in an accident will be worth less money afterward, even if it’s been repaired)
- Their attorney fees, court fees, and other expenses
Car Insurance for a DUI with Property Damage
There’s also the question of whether your car insurance will cover you for a DUI with property damage. In Oklahoma, you’re required to carry $25,000 of property damage protection as part of your car insurance policy. Your insurance should pay up to these amounts for property damage you caused, even if you were under the influence. But the long-term consequence is that the cost of your policy will skyrocket and your insurer could drop you altogether. However, this will happen for any DUI conviction, regardless of whether you damaged property.
What to Do If You’ve Been Charged with a DUI with Property Damage
Remember that a DUI charge is not the same thing as a conviction. If you’ve been charged, you should hire an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. They’ll go over your options, which might include:
- Plead no contest/guilty: This means that you don’t admit to the charge, but you won’t fight it. Legally, pleading no contest and pleading guilty are the same thing. You’ll be convicted of a DUI, but you’ll avoid a trial and it may help keep you out of jail. A DUI attorney can help you make a good case before the judge.
- Plead not guilty: This means your case will go to trial, and you will need to prove that you were not under the influence.
- Get your case dismissed: It’s rare to get a DUI dismissed, but it can happen if there was a procedural error.
These are just your options for the DUI charge. If the property owner takes you to civil court, you can:
- Settle: Because it’s relatively straightforward to calculate the amount of money owed for a property damage claim, these types of cases often settle out of court. Plus, if the claim is for less than $25,000, it should be entirely covered by your insurance.
- Go to trial: If you want to fight the charges, you can take the case to trial. If you’re found not liable, you won’t have to pay anything, but the chances of this will depend on the strength of your case.
In addition to your DUI charge, an experienced attorney can also help you figure out how to handle any civil claims that are brought against you.
The Bottom Line
A DUI with property damage can be a serious charge, especially if the damage was severe. You could not only be convicted of a DUI, but could receive a harsher punishment because your crime resulted in harm. You could also have to pay thousands of dollars in civil court for the damage you caused. It’s easy to see why having an experienced DUI attorney on your side could be helpful, and the Tulsa DUI Guy is here for you. Get a free case evaluation today and learn what you can do to reduce the consequences of your DUI.