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How does a DUI criminal case affect a civil case in Florida?

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2022 | DUI |

When people are arrested for driving under the influence in Florida, they will likely face criminal charges in court. But what happens when that person also has a civil case pending?

What is a civil case?

A civil case is a legal dispute between two or more parties that seeks money damages or specific performance rather than criminal sanctions. Florida is a no-fault car insurance state, but a DUI arrest can trigger a civil case if the arrested individual caused an accident that resulted in personal injury or property damage. The injured party may file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver to seek compensation for their losses.

How does a criminal case affect a civil case?

If you were arrested following an accident, a DUI conviction may interact with a civil charge, changing the course of your case. For example, if you’re convicted of DUI in criminal court, that conviction can be used as evidence in a civil case. This is especially true if the accident causes fatal injuries or death.

On the other hand, if the criminal court acquits you of DUI charges, that does not necessarily mean that you will also win your civil case. The standard of proof is different in civil and criminal cases. For instance, the prosecutor needs to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case. However, in a civil case, the plaintiff only needs to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that they only need to show that it is more likely than not that you were at fault for the accident.

Will the Fifth Amendment apply to a civil case?

You have the right to remain silent and cannot be forced to incriminate yourself under Fifth Amendment. This protection applies to criminal cases, but it does not apply to civil cases. In a civil case, you can be compelled to testify and may be required to produce evidence that could incriminate you.

It’s always a good idea to clearly understand how criminal and civil charges may interact in court. This can help you prepare and find the right defense to use.