Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or illicit drugs can lead to a host of penalties for the offender. DUI, also commonly known as drunk driving, is illegal in California and throughout the US, and drivers who commit DUI violations often incur steep penalties that affect their lives in many ways for months or even years. One of the biggest risks any DUI driver faces is the possibility of facing civil liability for damages caused by DUI in addition to criminal prosecution for breaking California law.
The potential penalties for drivers who cause DUI accidents in California vary based on the severity of the offense and the number of past offenses on record for the suspect. While some first-time DUI offenders can avoid the harshest available penalties, penalties increase sharply for multiple offenses. Penalties also increase when an impaired driver injures or kills someone else due to their failure to drive responsibly.
Civil Liability for DUI
If a driver causes an accident with another driver due to negligence or fails to drive with reasonable care, that driver is responsible for any injuries and economic damages resulting from the incident. This same rule applies to all DUI cases in which an impaired driver injures another driver and/or damages their vehicle. DUI is against the law and, therefore, an automatic breach of the impaired driver’s duty of care. If their impaired driving contributes to an accident, they will almost certainly absorb liability for any victims’ damages.
Civil liability will also come into play if another driver is killed because of an impaired driver’s behavior. Drugs and alcohol diminish spatial awareness and reaction time, making it very difficult for any impaired driver to function appropriately. They are also more likely to engage in risky behavior or fail to account for how fast they are driving. DUI accidents have a much higher chance of causing fatalities, and drivers responsible for these accidents face liability for wrongful death.
Criminal Prosecution for DUI
Any driver found responsible for a DUI accident in the Riverside area will face severe criminal penalties. Even a first-time DUI offense can lead to harsh penalties, including fines, loss of driving privileges, and even jail time. If a DUI driver was arrested due to causing an accident, the injuries and/or fatalities they caused can significantly increase the penalties they face.
Causing an injury or wrongful death due to DUI can mean the difference between qualifying for probation and facing jail time. It can also mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in some cases. For example, if a DUI driver caused an injury to another driver, they may qualify for an aggravated DUI conviction, which entails harsher penalties than a standard DUI. If they killed someone, they could face vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges.
These criminal convictions can lead to significant penalties beyond the scope of penalties available in a standard DUI case. For example, if a first-time offender would have received probation, fine, and six-month license suspension for a standard DUI, injuring or killing anyone could lead to additional financial liability for victims’ damages, court-ordered restitution, and incarceration. It is also likely the convicted driver will need to complete mandatory driver safety courses and drug and alcohol counseling.
Legal Options for Victims and Their Families
When a DUI accident causes an injury or death in your family, it is natural to want answers and justice right away. California state prosecutors tend to pursue convictions in DUI cases quite aggressively, so victims and their families should seek legal counsel to prepare them for the legal proceedings ahead. A DUI case involving civil damages and criminal prosecution will likely lead to a civil case filed by the victim and/or their family, along with a criminal case filed by the state.
Victims of DUI accidents should obtain legal counsel as soon as possible after these experiences. The sooner you secure legal representation in this kind of situation, the better your chances of successfully securing compensation and/or restitution for your damages. An experienced Riverside car accident lawyer will review your accident's circumstances and examine the state’s case against the defendant.
Find Your Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Consult a Riverside DUI accident lawyer about your legal options for recovery after suffering injuries and economic losses in an accident caused by an impaired or distracted driver. If you are ready to determine your best available legal options and consult with an experienced Riverside DUI accident attorney, contact Peach & Weathers today to schedule your consultation.