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Significance of the Great Bodily Injury Enhancement in California

This whole concept of great bodily injury is a real problem when it comes to criminal cases in Los Angeles.  First off, if you're charged with and it's pled and proven against you in a jury trial or you admit to it by way of some sort of a plea negotiation, you're facing three years in prison just for the enhancement alone.

Never mind what you could possibly get for the underlying offense.  That's where it might get a little bit confusing for some people.

The great bodily injury allegation, under California Penal Code Section 12022.7,  is not in and of itself a charge.  It's a special allegation that goes along with a charge.  In other words, you're driving DUI for example.  You hit somebody and severely injure them, then they would charge you with felony DUI and you'd also have a great bodily injury allegation.  There's a lot of other examples of it.

Another significant factor of these GBI or great bodily injury cases is that it causes any felony case to become a strike.  So, if you plead guilty to a crime that normally wouldn't be a strike and the felony DUI example is a perfect example and the you admit that you caused great bodily injury to the victim, that would then make the felony DUI a strike and you will have the strike the rest of your life.  So, these great bodily injury cases are very serious.

Negotiation with Prosecutor

A lot of people ask me, how can I get out of doing that three years?  Obviously, I don't want to do three years in prison.  One way is to get them to strike the great bodily injury allegation so you don't admit it and then you wouldn't have to do the three years.

Another way is if we can convince the prosecutor and the judge that even though you're going to admit the great bodily injury allegation, that they stay the three year sentence and don't actually give it to you.  That's another possibility that I've seen.  It would still be a strike, but you wouldn't have to serve the three years in prison.

Now, another question that comes up all the time is, what constitutes great bodily injury?  In other words, what's the difference between just an injury or a serious injury versus great bodily injury?  To be honest with you, that is a very nebulous thing.

All you can do is think of examples and a lot of times I'm arguing with prosecutors and other attorneys are arguing with prosecutors saying, the injury to that alleged victim there is not great ‘bodily injury, but certainly, if somebody has a broken bone, that's gonna typically be great bodily injury.

If someone is disfigured in some way — it's going to have to be some significant injury and like I said, ultimately, there can be arguments over whether something I great bodily injury and it's something that can be argued in front of a jury and ultimately, a jury could decide whether it's GBI or not.

Another question that comes up in criminal defense is this concept of proximate cause.  In other words, a defense to causing great bodily injury to somebody is that you're not the one who caused the injury.  Somebody else did.  Usually in these GBI cases, you have to personally inflict great bodily injury in order to be charged with that allegation.

So, if there's an argument that you did not inflict it or somebody else inflicted or even the alleged victim inflicted upon themselves, then you could potentially have a defense to this great bodily injury allegation.

So, you can see that there's a lot at stake when it comes to GBI or great bodily injury allegations in Los Angeles.  Your best bet is to sit down with a California criminal defense lawyer somebody like me.  We go over the case.  We figure out what your best strategy is moving forward so that you can try to avoid the harsh penalties that come along with a great bodily injury allegation.

How Can You Fight a Great Bodily Injury Allegation?

These great bodily injury allegations in Los Angeles and surrounding counties are very serious because they harm a person. 

First and foremost, any great bodily allegation that is attached to any felony makes that felony a strike.  Not only a strike, but a violent strike, and the person will serve 85% of any prison time they are given. 

Also, people don't realize that great bodily injury is not in itself its own crime.  It is a sentencing enhancement.  It is an allegation that can be added to a crime that serves to cause the person to do an extra three years of prison on top of whatever time they get in the underlying felony.

Great bodily injury is the type of allegation you obviously don't want because of all of the negative things that occur should you be found guilty of this particular allegation or if you admit it with the particular allegation.

Ways to fight it, the obvious way to fight a great bodily injury allegation is to say the person did not suffer great bodily injury. For example, let's say you were driving recklessly, struck a car, and left the scene of the accident; you would obviously be charged with driving recklessly. 

If the person died, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter.  You'd be charged with hit and run for leaving the scene of a crime. 

If the person claims their neck and back hurt after the accident and goes to a chiropractor and gets treatment for that neck and back pain but can't really show any substantial injury, that's obviously not great bodily injury, and the prosecutors are going to lose trying to ram that home against a person in a jury trial.

If you take the opposing end of the spectrum, and in that same scenario, if the person breaks a body part, that could be characterized as great bodily injury, subjecting the individual to that particular allegation.

Then we end up getting all of these scenarios where there are things in between that where you can't tell if it's great bodily injury.  I'll tell you right now, the jury instructions on this topic are very vague.

So, long story short, you're going to need an attorney who's got experience if you want to try to get rid of this great bodily injury allegation. I have the background necessary to try to attack this great bodily injury allegation. 

Even if you're guilty of the great body injury allegation and the prosecutors can prove it, there are still ways to get rid of it by negotiation.  I've had much success. Sometimes we can get them to strike the bodily injury allegation with the prosecutors, or even the Judge, to work that on your criminal record without adding an additional three years.

That's done with a mitigation package and character letters – hopefully, you don't have a prior criminal record, and hopefully, you don't have any violence in your past.  These are all things that can be utilized to attack that great bodily injury allegation.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with a crime, a great bodily injury allegation is attached.  Don't lose hope.  Pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  Let me put my experience to work for you.

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