Both criminal and civil charges may arise after a drunk driving crash. Understanding the distinction between these two types of legal actions is critical.
Criminal and civil charges, while addressing the same incident, are distinctly different. Criminal charges are brought by the state or federal government against an individual accused of violating a law. Civil charges are typically initiated by the injured party seeking compensation for damages.
Implications of criminal charges in drunk driving cases
When a drunk driving crash occurs, the alleged drunk driver may face criminal charges, most commonly driving under the influence. These charges aim to enforce public safety laws and punish behavior that puts others at risk.
Criminal charges in a drunk driving case are severe. They may result in penalties, including fines, probation, driver’s license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, installation of an ignition interlock device and sometimes jail time.
A criminal conviction requires the prosecution to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Understanding civil liabilities in drunk driving accidents
Alleged drunk drivers may also face civil penalties if their actions harm another person or property. The injured party can file a civil lawsuit against the driver to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering.
Unlike a criminal case, the standard of proof in a civil case is “preponderance of the evidence,” which means it’s more likely than not that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injury. The civil case can proceed regardless of the outcome of the criminal case.
These cases can become very complex, so it’s critical that you have proper guidance if you’re in this position. Working with someone familiar with these matters can help you learn your options and plan your case.