Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is an extremely serious offense, and if an impaired driver hurts someone else, the penalties can be significantly more severe. The laws vary from state to state, but here’s a look at the situation in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
What Are the Penalties for Hurting Someone in a Drunk Driving Accident in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, a first time DUI penalty can lead to license suspension for up to one year, $500 to $5,000 in fines, and jail time of up to 2.5 years. If a driver hurts someone in a drunk driving accident, they can face misdemeanor or felony vehicular homicide charges or involuntary manslaughter charges.
These drivers can lose their licenses for life if they have a prior DUI on their record, and they can face up to 20 years in a state prison.
What Are the Penalties for Hurting Someone in a Drunk Driving Accident in New Hampshire?
For a first time drunk driving offense in New Hampshire, drivers can lose their licenses for 180 days, and by the third offense, they can lose their licenses for two years and face a minimum of 180 days in jail.
The state also has aggravated DUI laws. If the driver was speeding excessively, evading law enforcement, carrying a passenger under the age of 16, or engaging in other dangerous activities, they can face additional penalties. These laws also apply if the driver caused a motor vehicle accident that injured another person.
What Are the Differences Between Civil and Criminal Penalties for Drunk Drivers?
The penalties described above are criminal penalties. These are penalties meted out by the state for illegal behavior. In these cases, the legal proceedings are between a state or county prosecutor and the defendant (the driver).
Civil cases, in contrast, are usually between the victim who was injured in the car accident and the driver. Civil penalties usually require the guilty person to pay restitution to the victim. That can include compensation for medical bills, vehicle repairs, and similar expenses as well as compensation for pain and suffering. In cases where someone has died due to the result of an accident, their family may bring a wrongful death suit against the driver. That is also a civil case.
There are also differences in how evidence is treated in both of these cases. In criminal cases, defendants do not face penalties unless the evidence proves they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the courts use a “preponderance of evidence” standard. That means that the defendant can be held responsible if the evidence indicates there is more than a 50% chance they are guilty. Because of this difference, someone may be found innocent in a criminal case but still be held responsible in a civil case.
What Should You Do If You or a Loved One Has Been Hurt in a Drunk Driving Accident?
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a drunk driving accident, you have a right to compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Although your life may be forever changed due to the accident, you may find that bringing a civil suit forward helps you get the closure you need after this type of tragedy.
To get the justice you deserve, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today at (855) 693-9084. We are an experienced personal injury law firm, representing clients in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.