Saturday, March 21, 2015

Suing a DUI Driver for Personal Injury

Although I represent DUI defendants, and have been successful in dismissing a DUI criminal charge, there are times when a DUI can result in an accident where there is a victim. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, hundreds of individuals die each year from an accident involving a drunk driver. When an individual is injured in a motor vehicle accident because of the negligence of a drunk driver, he or she can pursue a civil claim.

Typically there will be a criminal proceeding against the alleged drunk driver. A restitution hearing may even take place. But, injured parties can also initiate their own civil claims. There is no requirement to wait for the criminal case to be completed, or even filed. However, a criminal conviction could positively impact the civil case, as the burden in a civil proceeding is much lower -- proof by a preponderance of the evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is important to consult with a personal injury attorney after one has been injured as the result of a DUI driver. An attorney can investigate immediately, and determine whether there are other defendants besides the driver. Negligence may be apportioned to different individuals, or entities. Sometimes the accident could have been prevented had someone exercised good judgment and prevented the intoxicated person from driving.

A negligence cause of action could also be pursued against a bar, nightclub, or restaurant. Legislators have passed laws obligating operators of drinking establishments to use reasonable judgment when serving alcohol to its patrons. When a bartender keeps serving drinks to an intoxicated person when the bartender knew or should have known that the person was intoxicated, the bar could be held liable for the actions of that intoxicated person if he or she causes an accident later.

Similarly, hosts of parties can also be held liable for the negligence of a drunk guest. A party host cannot keep serving drinks to a guest who appears inebriated. Steps need to be taken by hosts to ensure that their guests do not harm others, especially when there are so many different opportunities to prevent a drunk driving incident.

Of course the driver may be sued, and his or her own insurance will need to be notified. The important thing is that in a DUI incident resulting in injuries, there are ways to be made whole again. Vehicle repair costs, medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages are all damages that can be claimed. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a drunk driving incident, call an experienced attorney.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Proposition 47: Reducing Felonies to Misdemeanors

Proposition 47 passed in the last California state election and thousands, if not tens of thousands, of individuals have benefited. Voters understood that a lot was at stake. For far too long, Californians had accepted severe overcrowding in prisons. They also tolerated criminal records affecting people for a lifetime. Things have changed.

The most popular provision in Proposition 47 was the way in which drug crimes and minor theft crimes were handled. Incarcerated defendants were able to petition for release. Instead of treating every drug offender as a felon, steps were taken to acknowledge that substance abuse should be handled differently. Similarly, less violent convicts were spared from having to serve more time in state prison. So far, it has been estimated that over 2,000 non-violent inmates have been released.

Some are unaware of other relief available pursuant to Proposition 47. There is a section that deals with applications to reduce certain felonies to misdemeanors. The consequences of a reduction could positively impact a person in a number of ways.

Proposition 47 stated, in part:

"According to Section 1170.18, subdivision (f), “[a] person who has completed his or her sentence for a conviction, whether by trial or plea, of a felony or felonies who would have been guilty of a misdemeanor under this act had this act been in effect at the time of the offense, may file an application before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in his or her case to have the felony conviction or convictions designated as misdemeanors.”

Again, most of the felonies eligible for reduction relief are drug crimes, and theft crimes where the value of the items did not exceed a certain amount. When an application is filed, and served to the District Attorney, it is only a matter of time before eligible applicants reap the benefits.

Employers almost always ask whether prospective employees have been convicted of a felony. If an individual qualifies for Proposition 47 reduction relief, it could change the way he or she answers that question.