When a person is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the state of Georgia, several penalties can be imposed by the criminal court depending on the situation, but DUI victims often find that legal penalties don't heal the hurt they've suffered.

A judge may impose a range of penalties in a DUI case, but the system is basically set up to give offenders a chance to mend their ways, not to give victims closure.

For example, DUI conviction is a condition for mandatory driver's license suspension in Georgia, but for first and second DUI convictions, offenders may apply for a temporary driving permit under certain conditions, and they may also apply to have their license reinstated after passing a state-sponsored risk reduction program. License revocation is mandatory only after the third conviction for a mandatory suspendable offense within five years.

Criminal penalties for drunk driving are determined by a cold and matter-of-fact calculation of the defendant's prior history, seriousness of the offense, and the likelihood of a repeat offense.

If you were injured in a DUI accident or a drunk driver is responsible for the death of your loved-one, those facts will appear in the accident or incident report, and may affect the judge's ruling, but the criminal proceeding is not designed to give psychological or emotional closure to victims.

Even of you are asked to give testimony at the criminal trial, the judge or jury must hear only the facts of the case.

But what about... 

  • Your loss, pain, and suffering
  • Your medical expenses, funeral expenses, or time in recovery
  • Your lost wages, lost job, lost abilities

These are real consequences of a drunk driver's poor decision, and they are the focus in a civil trial. In civil litigation, you have a chance to speak and be heard. Suffering and setbacks caused by the accident are taken into account in a civil trial, as is your right to compensation for wrongs done to you and your family.

This is why we say civil court brings real closure, not only because a civil suit allows victims of drunk drivers to collect payment for medical bills and property damage, but because it gives injury victims a chance to talk about the impact of the incident on their lives, to be heard, and to move on.

If you have been injured, or a loved one was killed, by a drunk driver, contact Shane Smith Law to learn what you can gain in civil court.

Shane Smith
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Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia

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