Drunk driving is sadly more common than it should be. In many situations, a person may think they are safe to drive because they only had a few drinks, they ate while they were drinking, or a certain period of time had passed since they stopped drinking. However, even if all of these facts are true, a person's ability to safely operate a vehicle may be impaired.
In Florida, Driving Under the Influence (DUI)1 is a criminal offense, proven by impairment of normal faculties or unlawful blood alcohol or breath alcohol level of .08 or above. Therefore, if a person is stumbling and slurring their words, it likely does not matter what their blood alcohol level is as they are visibly intoxicated. Likewise, even if one is completely in control of their normal faculties, they may still be convicted of Driving Under the Influence if their blood alcohol level exceeds the lawful maximum.
Furthermore, the above test is merely for establishing criminal liability. Civilly, a driver has the duty to act reasonably on the road. Evidence of failing to meet this duty can be a lot broader and held to a lower standard than that which the state must offer in a criminal case. For civil injury cases, the burden of proof is “the preponderance of the evidence,” which means that an injured person just needs to have more evidence in their favor than not. On the other hand, the state needs to prove the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a driver of Driving Under the Influence. Thus, while the evidence might be the same, the strength of the evidence is greater in a civil case because the burden of proof is lower.
The following evidence can be used in civil matters to prove that a driver acted unreasonably, that there was an impairment of their normal faculties, or that their blood alcohol levels were too high.
Statements by the Driver. Statements by opposing parties are admissible against them if a case goes to trial. Any statements made by a suspected drunk driver should be recorded or written down. If a driver proclaims something like “I probably drank too much,” that can be used as evidence.
Breath or Blood Tests. Most of the time, a reporting officer will take a breath test from a driver. This test is usually the strongest evidence against the drunk driver and holds substantial weight in proving that the driver had a higher BAC than legally permissible.
Field Sobriety Test. The field sobriety test is used to establish the impairment of normal faculties. Drivers will be asked to perform basic tests to establish the level, if any, of their impairment. The results of these tests are documented and sometimes recorded and are used to establish that a driver was drunk.
Police Reports. Police reports document that the accident occurred, the parties, and all the finding of the reporting officer. The police report is a good indicator of what an officer will testify to at trial. The officer will be a key witness in both the criminal and civil cases, so a thorough police report is essential.
Witness Statements. Witnesses are anyone with firsthand knowledge of the events leading up to, during, and after the accident. A witness statement helps to preserve their memory from the time the accident happened to when a trial will occur. Like a police report, witness statements help give parties an idea about what will be testified to at trial. Witness statements should be taken as soon as possible and should be signed by the witness. Witnesses can be passengers of either car, people who witnessed the driver consuming alcohol, and people on the street. Anyone who can paint the picture that the driver consumed too much, was driving erratically, or was simply being unreasonable should be contacted.
Audio or Visual Recordings of the Driving, Accident, and Post-Accident Behavior. Often times, a police car will have video recording devices that will record a traffic stop or accident. This can help corroborate a police officer's testimony.
For more information, call the Clearwater Auto Accident Lawyer at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Today
The attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are experienced with drunk driving accidents can help you with the develop your strongest case. Please do not hesitate to call us to discuss your situation today at 727-451-6900.