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Differences Between DUI Criminal Charges and Civil Lawsuits

An impaired driver who caused a serious accident may face both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit. When a person is charged with DUI in Arizona, they usually need to defend themselves in two different arenas:

1) Criminal Charge: Criminal charges may be brought by the state for the criminal offense of DUI; and

2) Civil Lawsuit: The victim may seek damages against a person charged with DUI as result of the impaired driver causing the accident.

One main difference between the two types of law involves the entity bringing the suit. In the case of criminal court, the charges are brought against the defendant by the State of Arizona or the Government. In a civil case, a lawsuit is brought by a victim (also known as the plaintiff).

In criminal cases, a person can be charged, convicted and sentenced to punishments such as jail, prison, probation, counseling, loss of driving privileges, fines, and other court ordered penalties. In contrast, when a civil suit is involved, the victim usually pursues recovery of damages for medical bills and other financial damages.

There are also differences in evidentiary standards and the issue of which party carries the burden of proof. In Arizona criminal cases, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to provide evidence that the defendant is guilty beyond a “reasonable doubt.” This is a much higher standard than a civil law case where the burden that is generally recognized by U.S. Courts is a “preponderance of the evidence.” With this standard, the plaintiff must show there is more than a 50% chance the claims made are true.

Whether a defendant in a criminal trial is found guilty or has their charges dismissed, the victim or their survivors still have the option of filing a lawsuit against them. In the event of a fatal collision, this will likely mean filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Consequences of DUI with Serious or Fatal Injury Accident:
In Arizona criminal court, if you are found guilty of DUI with an accident that results in a victim being seriously or fatally injured, you will face charges for aggravated DUI. If you are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and convicted of the charges, you could face up to 18 years in prison; $5,000.00 or more in fines; court ordered restitution to the victim; a felony conviction on your criminal record; 3 years license revocation, and more.

The Type of Attorney You Need to Represent You
If you are currently facing DUI with Accident charges, you should consult a criminal defense attorney to discuss the matter, along with your defense options. Your criminal attorney should be familiar with the DUI laws in the state and have consistently defended these cases in criminal court. This experience provides an important familiarity with court procedures and rules, as well as challenges that can be made to defend your charges.

If you receive notice of a civil lawsuit following a DUI accident, or other vehicular crime, you should contact your auto insurance carrier first. If you do not have auto insurance, you should contact a personal injury or accident attorney who practices in Civil Law. This should be done as soon as possible since time is of the essence for your attorney when it comes to both civil and criminal matters.

About the Author
James E. Novak is an experienced Tempe DUI attorney who represents individuals facing charges for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As a former prosecutor in Maricopa County, he has tried many drunk driving cases and has developed a strong understanding of tactics used in the court room. His educational background, namely a Masters in Education/Counseling, has also proven an asset in the trial process, from depositions to selecting juries. Contact the Law Office of James E. Novak for more information about Arizona DUI charges.

Contact Our DUI Lawyers (301) 761-4842 or (410) 734-2675