Many people have heard of the concept of double jeopardy, which means that a person can’t be tried twice for the same crime unless they’re being provided with a retrial. What some don’t realize is that the double jeopardy concept doesn’t prevent a person from facing a case in the criminal court system and another one in the civil court system.
The reason a person can face a case in each of these courts is because they serve different purposes. The criminal case is meant to punish the person for their actions that violated laws. The civil case is to determine whether there is compensation that should be provided to the victim of the incident.
Why might drunk driving involve both types of cases?
If you’re arrested for drunk driving after a simple traffic stop, the odds are high that your case will only involve criminal court. That’s bad enough. Imagine, however, that you are charged with drunk driving after being involved in an accident with another driver. While your drunk driving charge will be handled in criminal court, the other driver may sue you for damages in civil court — and try to use the drunk driving charge as evidence that you were negligent and at-fault.
Are these two types of cases tied together?
Technically, no: Each case is separate. However, a guilty plea or a conviction in criminal court will likely be used against you in civil court and make a loss there more likely.
When you have a matter that will include a civil case and a criminal case, you should work diligently on both. This gives you the opportunity to review your options for both so you aren’t trying to throw together a defense for either case at the last minute.