DUI Accident could lead to both Criminal Charges and a Civil Case
A DUI accident could lead to both criminal charges and a civil case. Many may be aware that the penalties for even a first time DUI can be quite steep, including heavy fines, loss of a license, and even jail time. The punishments can be even harsher with multiple DUI arrests and convictions.
However, the worst potential penalties typically accrue when the alleged drunk driving incident leads to a DUI accident with significant property damage or injury to others. A DUI accident could possible result in multiple criminal charges and lengthy prison time. In addition, many are unaware that DUI accident cases can also have civil law ramifications. A criminal charge is technically an allegation by the public of misconduct. Conversely, a private party (someone injured by another) can file a civil suit, typically seeking financial damages. A conviction for a DUI accident can seriously hinder a defense in a subsequent civil case. All of this is even more reason why it is important to aggressively defend yourself following a DUI charge.
When a DUI Accident Criminal Charges Can Help a Civil Case
In certain cases, a criminal conviction can make recovery in a civil case much easier. This is because the burden of proof in a civil case is much lower. In a civil case, responsibility for injuries must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. That is, an injured plaintiff must present enough evidence to show it is more likely than not that the defendant caused his or her injuries. In a criminal case, the defendant is found guilty only if there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
When a defendant is facing both a criminal case and civil case, being found not guilty in the criminal case does not prevent being found responsible for damages in a civil case (think of O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of murder but still found responsible in a subsequent civil case). But a defendant who is found guilty of a criminal offense may find that, in some circumstances, that criminal conviction establishes liability in the civil case as well.
But in order for this principle to potentially apply, it is important that the crime of which the defendant is convicted must be closely related to the claim for damages in the civil case. For instance, if Ms. Sanchez is found guilty of driving an unregistered vehicle, it is extremely unlikely that this conviction will establish any sort of civil responsibility for the crossing guard’s injuries. However, if Ms. Sanchez was found guilty of driving while intoxicated, then this conviction might be enough to establish civil liability.
Contact a Santa Rosa DUI Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Ukiah or elsewhere in Sonoma County, Mendocino County and Lake County California and there was property damage or personal injury, it is important that you seek the assistance of an experienced DUI lawyer. At Beck Law P.C., we will investigate the facts and circumstances of your case and fight vigorously for your defense. Please contact us today.