How Does a DUI Criminal Case Affect a Civil Case?

By  //  January 13, 2021

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As a victim of drunk driving, you might wonder what will happen next according to the law. The bigger question that many car accident victims like yourself have is whether they should sue immediately or allow the police at the scene to start the criminal investigation and file their cases later.

However, as you will see in this post, the relationship between the criminal charges the police are pursuing has minimal impact on your case.

You can present your case to the judge for recoverable legal damages for DUI accident injuries with your own proof without relying on the criminal case proceedings. However, it will be essential to keep tabs on what is happening in the criminal case as you might have access to some critical information that can strengthen your civil case.

Standard of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases

Criminal cases are usually more challenging than civil cases because the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender was driving while intoxicated.

The higher standard of proof gives the defendants a chance to win such cases because a judge will not admit simple evidence, but hard details are collected from the scene for the DUI case to proceed. Therefore, waiting on the criminal conviction to start your civil case may not hold in a DUI case.

As a civil complainant, all you have to do is present your evidence before a judge for determination. If you manage to present credible evidence, the judge might decide the case in your favor. As such, you can easily submit your civil case, unlike the police, who might be struggling to build a strong criminal case and bring it before a judge.

Evidence Used in Civil Case

One of the top reasons to keep an eye on the criminal case proceedings is that the evidence presented can also be used in your civil case. Therefore, the success of the criminal case will bolster your civil case as all the incriminating evidence will likely be admissible in your case, as well.

However, the simple fact that the other driver was drunk at the moment of the accident is not evidence in your civil case. You have to prove that the driver’s actions or inactions caused the road accident and you were harmed in the accident.

Other types of evidence that you can present include:

■ Police reports

■ Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of the driver

■ Eyewitness testimony

■ Traffic camera footage & surveillance footage

■ Photographs of the scene

■ Photographs of your injuries

■ Accident reconstruction reports

■ Testimony of expert witnesses.

Does the Outcome of a Criminal Case Affect Your Civil Case?

As discussed above, criminal cases require a high standard of evidence for a conviction to take place, but civil cases require credible proof. As such, the outcome of the criminal case does not in any way affect related civil proceedings. The defendant can be found not guilty in the criminal case while at the same time being declared at fault in the civil case.

The state may also consider not pursuing criminal charges against the drunk driver and applying milder punishment. That does not mean that your civil case cannot proceed. The evidence needed is significantly different, and one case’s outcome does not affect the other case.

However, a conviction in the criminal case may significantly impact your case because you can use the incriminating evidence to support your claim.

Work with a DUI Accident Attorney

As you can see, a drunk driving case is not always the easiest to handle, but there is a high chance that your evidence will be accepted in civil court. However, it will be better to work with an experienced DUI accident lawyer because he understands the basic requirements of a successful DUI case. Without a lawyer, you will always struggle to discern and present your facts.