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Civil Penalties for DUI Accidents

Most Orange County drivers are aware of the criminal penalties associated with a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction. Typically, with any type of DUI charge the defendant faces an array of penalties, such as:

  • Fines
  • Jail Time
  • Probation
  • Community Service
  • AA Classes
  • DUI School
  • MADD Victim Impact Panel
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
  • Suspended Driver’s License

While these may seem like enough penalties for one person to handle, unfortunately, the consequences of a DUI conviction do not end there.

In addition to the above penalties imposed under California’s DUI law, DUI defendants may also be forced to pay civil damages if their DUI involved an accident, or if they injured or killed another person as a result of driving under the influence.

According to the California Vehicle Code Section 23554, if any person is convicted of a first violation of Section 23153 (DUI causing injury), that person shall be punished by:

  • Imprisonment in the state prison, or
  • Incarceration in a county jail for 3 to 12 months,
  • Up to a $1,000 fine, and
  • A suspended driver’s license.

The California Vehicle Code and the California Penal Code detail the criminal penalties associated with a DUI, but any fines mentioned in this section are separate from any civil damages you may have to pay as a result of an accident.

In many DUI accident cases, the damages sought against a DUI defendant are "punitive damages" and are a form of punishment. Punitive damages are paid by the DUI offender to the victim or their family.

For a victim to secure these damages, they must show that the DUI defendant's actions were malicious, grossly negligent and/or were committed with a willful disregard for the safety of others.

The laws regarding punitive damages were drastically altered in 1979 in Taylor v. Superior Court. This case established that for a victim to secure punitive damages, they must show that the drunk driver "willfully and deliberately failed to avoid the probable dangerous consequences" of getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Will you have to pay civil penalties?

While a DUI criminal case is completely separate from any administrative or civil case that you, the DUI defendant might encounter, being exonerated of your drunk driving charges could help prevent civil actions from accident victims.

To learn more about how our firm can aid in your defense, contact one of our Orange County DUI lawyers today for a free case evaluation!