Drunk driving accidents are such a common problem that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention even has a formal name for them: "alcohol impaired driving episodes." Though the overall numbers have fallen in recent years, driving under the influence is still a serious problem in most states, including Ohio. In fact, in 2009, there were 324 alcohol-related fatalities in Ohio car accidents, and almost 19,000 people were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
Civil and Criminal Consequences
Those who are caught driving under the influence can face both criminal and civil consequences. In Ohio, any conviction for a DUI requires mandatory jail time, and sentences are increased for multiple offenders. The first three DUI convictions are misdemeanors, with increasing minimum required sentences. Fourth offenses and above are felonies, which can result in lengthy terms in jail. Offenders convicted of DUI also face hefty fines.
Driver's license revocation or suspension is another common consequence of being arrested for DUI.
For people injured by a drunk driver, it's important to know that someone who causes an accident while driving under the influence can also be sued in civil court. The suit can seek damages for injuries, property damage, loss of income, future medical expenses, wrongful death, or other pecuniary loss suffered by the other party.
Accident in Springfield Township, Ohio
A 34-year-old Ohio man could soon learn firsthand about the nature of criminal consequences for DUI. Plemons recently went on trial for hitting a police officer with his Chevy Silverado in a crash on March 31, 2011. The accident left the officer permanently paralyzed. Two hours after the incident, Plemons' blood alcohol content was still three times over the legal limit.
The officer was hit while searching for evidence that a suspect was believed to have discarded from a moving vehicle in an unrelated case. Plemons left the scene, but returned in his damaged truck and was then arrested.
Plemons asserted he did not know he had hit anyone. Plemons' attorney argued that the lack of lighting contributed to the accident, and that Plemons had driven a long distance without a problem until he reached the poorly lit area and struck the officer.
If convicted, Plemons will face mandatory jail time; the length of the sentence dependent upon on whether he has been convicted of driving while intoxicated within the last six years. He will also receive a fine and have his license suspended.
If the officer decides to file a civil suit, the criminal case will not be determinative. This is because there are different standards of proof in the civil justice system compared to the criminal system.
Your Unique Case
If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident, or a loved one of yours was killed, contact an experienced Ohio personal injury attorney to discuss your right to pursue legal compensation.