DUI defense attorneys in Santa Rosa, San Rafael, Napa, Lakeport, Ukiah
and Eureka explain recent court decision eliminating a mistake-of-fact
defense in a DUI manslaughter case.
In the case of
People v. Givan, Fifth District Court of Appeal has ruled that a mistake-of-fact defense
generally requires an actual belief in a set of facts and, if true, would
make the act with which the defendant is charged an innocent one. The
mistake-of-fact belief must be both actual and reasonable. However, even
if those requirements are met as argued by DUI defense lawyers in a DUI
case, a mistake-of-fact defense only works when it would negate an element
of the offense.
In this case, Mr. Givan ran a red light, became involved in an accident,
killing one of his passengers and injuring the driver of the other vehicle.
His blood alcohol level was .17 and he was charged with gross vehicular
manslaughter while intoxicated as well as other charges. Eventually, he
was sentenced to 25 years to life plus five additional years.
Experienced DUI defense attorneys in our Santa Rosa, San Rafael, Napa,
Lakeport, Ukiah, and Eureka offices can provide substantial insight, assistance
and strategy into all of the defenses available to you regarding the required
elements of this crime.
The Court in this DUI matter clearly explained that
gross vehicular manslaughter while
intoxicated requires proof of the element of gross negligence which is generally defined
as a conscious indifference to consequences. Although DUI attorneys requested
jury instructions explaining the mistake of fact defense the Court found
that it is an
objective standard in a DUI case which means whether a reasonable person in the
defendant’s position would have been aware of the risks involved
in drinking and driving. Mr. Givan’s
subjective belief did not justify jury instructions for a mistake-of-fact defense
because the jury could still determine that a reasonable person would
have appreciated or understood the risks involved in drinking and driving.
DUI attorneys disagree with this decision for obvious reasons.
In summary, the Court ruled that the mistake-of-fact defense may not be
used when someone is accused of a DUI causing injury or driving with an
excessive blood alcohol concentration. Both sections of Vehicle Code §23153
are general intent crimes and a person’s subjective belief about
his or her level of intoxication does not cancel an element of either
charge. The Court further noted that a mistake-of-fact defense is generally
not considered reasonable when it is due to voluntary intoxication.
It is important to understand that qualified, experienced criminal defense
attorneys will give each client the very best chance of taking advantage
of all available defenses. We invite you to contact us for a free consultation
if you are serious about hiring an attorney with strong criminal expertise
from one of our 6 offices in Santa Rosa, Napa, San Raphael, Lakeport,
Ukiah and Eureka. Contact us at