The Civil and Criminal Implications of a California DUI

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At the Brod Law Firm, we work to get victims compensation through the state and federal civil court system. We are proud of our work as a San Francisco personal injury law firm, including our representation of those injured by drunk drivers. While the civil and criminal courts in the United States are separate and distinct systems, we believe it is helpful to have an understanding of both facets of the legal system as it relates to driving under the influence.

San Francisco DUI Charges Following Chase that Injured a Cyclist
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, a high-speed chase began early Thursday morning when the Highway Patrol began following an SUV on Interstate 80 near the area of the Bay Bridge. The female driver sped through the Mission district before colliding with a parked car that then hit a cyclist. Reports indicate it actually took hitting another parked vehicle and a utility pole before the woman came to a stop. The cyclist suffered minor injuries. Police arrested the driver and charged her with hit and run, recklessly evading police, and felony DUI.

Criminal Scheme for DUIs in California
In California (and all states as of 2011), a driver over age 21 is guilty of DUI if they have a blood alcohol level at or above 0.08%. However, there are different levels of DUI charges based on the violator’s driving history and the results of the incident. A few key types of California drunk driving violations are:

• Basic DUI – This is a first-time offense where police pull the driver over and tests reveal the driver is over the limit but there are no injuries or crashes involved.

• Second (or more) Offense – The criminal penalties climb for repeat offenders. A forth offense is usually charged as a felony and can carry up to three years in prison.

• Felony DUI with Injury – If a driver injures another person including another driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian, the charge is often elevated to felony DUI and can include a significant prison sentence.

• Vehicular Manslaughter – If a drunk driver hits and kills another person, the resulting charge is often vehicular manslaughter. This is a form of homicide.

The different levels of DUI crimes result in increasing punishments with the potential jail sentence, financial fine/penalty, and length of license suspension becoming more severe with multiple offenses or a serious result. California now permits judges to order even certain first-time offenders to install an ignition interlock device, a small unit that prevents a driver from starting a vehicle if it detects a set level of alcohol on the driver’s breath.

Civil Law Firm for San Francisco DUI Victims
As stated at the beginning of this post, the civil law system is separate from the criminal courts. A person injured by another driver may have a civil claim even where the other driver’s blood alcohol level is below the legal limit (or, of course, if the driver was negligent despite being unimpaired by alcohol) or when the prosecutor declines the file criminal charges. Still, it is helpful for victims to understand the criminal system and the presence of a criminal conviction may encourage a defendant to settle a civil liability case given that the standard of proof is lower in civil court (i.e. a criminal conviction requires evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” while a civil case requires only the preponderance/majority of evidence favor the plaintiff).

As a San Francisco personal injury lawyer, Greg Brod understands the interplay of criminal and civil law. He is committed to taking the time to ensure every client understands how the law applies to his/her unique case and to guiding the client through the legal process. Please call to arrange a free consultation. We can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

See Related Blog Posts:
Northern California Injury Attorney on Drugged Driving and Medication Take-Back Programs

Understanding Blood Alcohol Content in the Aftermath of a Fatal Single-Car Crash in Berkley