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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.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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