When you’ve been accused of causing a car accident in Connecticut, you’re likely expecting the victim to make a personal injury claim against your auto insurance provider. In a lot of cases, this is exactly what happens, However, there are times when you could also end up being charged with a criminal offense. When that happens, a CT criminal attorney at The Sills Firm can be there to challenge the allegations and defend your rights.
Understanding Civil vs. Criminal Cases in CT
Civil law covers any compensable disputes or injuries involving individuals and/or organizations. Common examples include a breach of contract between a company and one of its vendors, wrongful termination claims between an employee and employer, and most personal injury cases. Criminal law, on the other hand, deals with crime and the punishment of criminal offenses.
In general, the type and severity of injuries suffered during a car accident do not determine a case’s civil or criminal status. Instead, the key determinant between criminal and civil cases is the conduct that led to the injury. A person who acts recklessly or knowingly breaks the law is more likely to face criminal charges.
Types of Criminal Auto Accidents in CT
Accidents caused by distractions, mistakes on the road, or even failing to obey traffic signals are usually considered civil cases because they harm an individual. However, if a driver’s behavior threatens the general public or poses a serious danger, law enforcement may charge them at the scene or, in some instances, after they’re located.
Below are some common examples of criminal charges that may arise after a motor vehicle accident.
According to Responsibility.org, 117 people were killed in drunk driving accidents on Connecticut roads in 2018. Intoxicated drivers are more likely to make fatal mistakes and cause devastating accidents, so driving under the influence (DUI) is punished aggressively across the country.
If the police who investigate your car accident believe that you operated your vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may face license suspension, fines, and even jail time. Should this happen, call a DUI lawyer in CT right away.
Assault With a Motor Vehicle
If you operate your vehicle in a criminally negligent manner (for example, driving while intoxicated) and cause an accident resulting in serious physical injury, you could be charged with assault in the second degree with a motor vehicle. This is classified as a Class D felony, and if convicted, you could lose your driver’s license for a year, be ordered to pay a fine of up to $5,000, and be sent to prison for up to five years.
In Connecticut, this offense is known as “manslaughter with a motor vehicle.” You can be charged with manslaughter in the second degree with a motor vehicle if you cause a fatal accident while driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is a Class C felony that may result in up to $10,000 in fines, up to 10 years in prison, or a combination of both.
If alcohol was involved, a conviction will also result in a mandatory one-year suspension of your driver’s license, and the requirement that your vehicle is equipped with an ignition interlock device for at least two years after your driving privileges are reinstated.
Negligent Homicide with a Motor Vehicle
For this charge, all that is required is ordinary negligence, which is defined as behavior that a reasonably prudent person would not indulge in. You could be charged with this offense if, for example, you went through a stop sign without looking both ways and killed a bicyclist who had the right of way. Negligent homicide with a motor vehicle is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine.
Hit and Run
If a driver is involved in an accident, they must stop their vehicle, provide medical aid if necessary, and exchange contact and insurance information. If a driver fails to stop even after a minor crash, they are breaking the law, and they may be criminally charged.
In a hit-and-run accident, the severity of injuries and property damage will determine the type of penalties the driver faces. If the violation is classified as a misdemeanor, you could spend up to a year in jail while a felony charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
In this type of accident, a driver’s reckless behavior creates unreasonably dangerous conditions on the road. There are many forms of reckless driving, such as speeding, road rage, texting and driving, and driving without a license. Generally, reckless driving accidents are not criminal cases unless they result in serious injuries or death, in which case you should contact a Connecticut criminal defense attorney right away.
Skilled Criminal Defense in Connecticut is Only a Call Away
Criminal charges arising from CT car accidents are like any other in that they can haunt you long after you have paid your fines and/or completed any sentence or probation imposed by the court. You could run into problems getting a job, finding housing, qualifying for public benefits, or getting certain types of professional licenses. While it may be tempting to accept a deal offered by the prosecution, you should never do so or even make a statement before you hire a criminal defense lawyer.
At The Sills Law Firm, we use our considerable resources and extensive skill to fearlessly defend our clients against all types of criminal charges, including those arising from a car accident. You can rest assured your case is in the hands of skilled attorneys who have experience handling even the most challenging criminal cases. If you’ve been charged, please call one of our two offices immediately or contact us online.