The Civil Consequences of DUI

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious offense with far-reaching consequences. While most discussions about DUI focus on the criminal aspect, it’s crucial to understand that DUI incidents can also lead to civil actions. 

Today, we’ll discuss the differences between criminal and civil charges in the context of DUI, providing clarity on how these legal pathways differ and intersect.

Criminal vs. Civil Charges: A Fundamental Distinction

To grasp the implications of a DUI, it’s essential to differentiate between criminal and civil charges:

Criminal Charges

Criminal charges aim to punish the offender and deter future law violations. These charges aren’t initiated by any potential bystanders affected by the DUI offense, but by the state or governing municipality. The consequences of a criminal charge can include:

  1. Fines, from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on both the severity of the offense and the number of repeated offenses.
  2. License suspension, which may different from state to state in terms of length.
  3. Mandatory traffic school attendance, typically paid for by the convicted party.
  4. Jail time, which can be as short as 48 hours or as extensive as 6 months, depending on the severity of the offense.

Civil Charges

Civil actions, in contrast, seek to compensate the victim for losses or injuries resulting from the DUI. Rather than the state filing a suit against the offender, the victims themselves can seek monetary compensation for the damages caused by the perpetrator. Oftentimes, victims will have to contend with medical expenses, a loss of wages, lasting bodily pain, and even emotional suffering. 

Civil Actions Following a DUI

When a DUI incident causes harm, injury, or property damage, the affected parties can file a civil lawsuit. These lawsuits are independent of any criminal proceedings and can be pursued regardless of the outcome of the criminal trial.

Common Types of Civil Actions

  • Personal Injury Claims: If someone is injured due to a DUI incident, they can sue for medical costs, pain, and suffering.
  • Wrongful Death Claims: In fatal DUI cases, the deceased’s family might pursue compensation for their loss.
  • Property Damage Claims: For damages to vehicles or other property.

Navigating Civil Litigation After a DUI

Those involved in a DUI incident, whether as offenders or victims, should consider the following:

  • Legal Representation: Both parties typically require legal counsel specialized in DUI-related civil litigation.
  • Insurance Considerations: Auto insurance may cover some damages, but policies vary, and limits may apply.
  • Time Limits: Civil actions are subject to statutes of limitations, which vary by state.

What You’ve Learned

Understanding the distinction and interplay between criminal and civil charges in DUI cases is crucial. While criminal proceedings address the offense against society, civil actions focus on rectifying the harm done to individuals. Navigating these complex legal waters requires, in either civil or criminal matters, the presence of a DUI attorney at your side

If you are facing a DUI charge and would like to consult an attorney, then click here or call (800) 384-5297.