Drunk drivers are a continuing danger on Montana’s roads. In addition to imposing criminal penalties, Montana law permits those injured in a drunk driving accident to bring a civil lawsuit against the drunk driver. A recent sentencing arising from such a car accident serves as a reminder.
Earlier this month, a former police officer was sentenced on one count of felony criminal endangerment and a misdemeanor DUI. In May of last year, after drinking at two bars, the officer had driven a pickup truck at 98 miles per hour. He crashed into the rear of a car that was going 50 miles per hour, injuring the two occupants. In the investigation, it was discovered that the former officer had turned down the offer of a ride home before leaving the bar.
The officer was initially charged with two felony counts of criminal endangerment, plus the misdemeanor DUI. In a plea deal, one felony count was dropped, and the former officer pleaded no contest to the remaining felony and guilty to the DUI.
He received a three-year deferred prison sentence on the felony, which means the sentence is in effect suspended as long as the officer completes his probation. He also received a six-month suspended jail sentence on the DUI, and $3,500 in fines. His defense attorney said the sentence was similar to those imposed in cases with similar facts.
What this story illustrates is that people who drink and drive sometimes do not fit stereotypes of criminals. When a drunk driver causes a car accident, the victims can bring a civil lawsuit to recover compensation for any injuries, medical bills and pain and suffering. The law does not make exceptions in this regard, even for those who were previously pillars of their communities. A personal injury lawyer can help victims and their families evaluate their options.
Source: Billings Gazette, “Former Las Vegas cop sentenced for DUI crash in Laurel,” Greg Tuttle, July 12, 2012