Being Found Guilty and Being Liable for a Victim’s Damages Are Not the Same Thing
Say you are involved in a car accident, and at the scene of the accident you are accused of driving drunk. You may be charged with DUI. You may additionally face a personal injury lawsuit from the other party involved in the accident alleging that you caused the collision by driving drunk.
Then, assume you successfully defend your case in court and the DUI charge is dropped. You are free and clear of everything associated with the crash, right? Not exactly. The DUI was a criminal charge, and the personal injury claim was a civil charge. It is entirely possible for each to have different outcomes, and for you to be found innocent, but not liable for the victim’s damages. Or vice versa.
The Difference Between Civil and Criminal Rulings
With a criminal charge, you can be found guilty or not guilty. To be found guilty, the court must determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the offense for which you were charged. With a civil charge, the situation is a bit different. The court will not find you guilty or innocent, but either liable or not liable for the victim’s damages after reviewing the evidence presented. The amount of evidence needed to deem an individual liable is lower than the amount needed to find him or her guilty. Rather than being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, an individual must be deemed liable due to a preponderance of evidence to be responsible for the plaintiff’s damages in a civil case.
If you are found guilty of a criminal charge related to your accident, the conviction can be evidence the plaintiff uses to support his or her claim. But it is not necessary for a defendant to be found guilty to be deemed liable — the criminal court may determine that you are not guilty, but the civil court may determine that you were negligent and thus, liable for the victim’s damages.
How your Lawyer can Help You Defend your Case
When you are charged with a criminal offense, your lawyer can help you defend your case against the charge by making use of the available evidence, or lack thereof, to demonstrate that there is not sufficient evidence to support the charge. The goal of defending your case against a criminal charge is to avoid being convicted of the charge and facing the penalties associated with it. Often, this means seeking a ruling of not guilty; however, in some cases, the best course of action is to try to have the charge reduced.
Your criminal defense lawyer cannot help you with a civil claim made against you unless he or she is also a civil lawyer.
Work with an Experienced Naperville Traffic Charge Defense Lawyer
Our team of experienced Naperville traffic violation defense lawyers at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC can help you defend your case against a traffic charge to clear your name, save you money, and preserve your future liberty. To get started with a member of our team, contact us to set up your initial legal consultation.