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When Car Accidents Turn Into Criminal Action

Almost everyone has been involved in a car accident at some point or another, and while it may be a hassle, most of us are able to make it out of this situation relatively unscathed. While typically, most attorneys would think of car accident injuries and lawsuits as falling under the purview of personal injury lawyers, there is quite a bit of crossover between these two specialities of law, especially if there are drugs and alcohol involved in the situation or when someone has died due to an accident.

While criminal charges and civil charges may occur simultaneously, they are often dealt with differently. Personal injury cases, being civil trial cases, do not result in prison time and instead will end in a settlement or court-ordered fine, while criminal cases will most involve criminal fines as well as prison time or a mandatory probation period to be served. 

If you’re having trouble determining what type of legal action to take against someone who has injured you or your loved ones in a car accident, here is a breakdown of the most common types of criminal car accidents. Filing a police report is the first step, but pressing charges may be another hurdle to jump entirely. 

Hit and Run

How do you know if a car accident is a hit and run? It’s quite simple--if the other driver flees the scene without attempting to exchange information with you or ensure that you do not need medical assistance, they can be charged with a hit and run. 

Your adrenaline might be high while you’re in this situation, but it’s a good idea to note the license plate number as well as the make and model of the car as the crash is happening so that you report that information accurately to police. It’s not always easy to find the perpetrator of a hit and run, but if the police are able to, you’ll be able to press criminal charges against that individual. 

Driving While Intoxicated/Driving Under the Influence

The easiest way for a small fender bender to turn into a more serious criminal action is when one of the parties involved is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whether they are prescription or illegal drugs. 

If you notice that the other driver appears intoxicated at any point during your interaction with them, the best idea is to call the police immediately so that they can be assessed. When another driver is intoxicated, a car accident will very quickly turn more serious and may result in imprisonment. 

Vehicular Manslaughter

Far more serious than the above-mentioned criminal charges, vehicular manslaughter occurs when one driver mortally injures another due to their irresponsible actions, including gross negligence, DUI/DWIs, and reckless driving. While this criminal charge may be much rarer than the previous two, this type of crime can lead to years in prison for taking a human life, as well as a permanent ban on driving. 

Manslaughter may also lead to wrongful death charges on the civil side, leading to a situation like OJ Simpson’s. While he was found not guilty of manslaughter, he was forced to pay millions to those who survived his alleged victim after a wrongful death suit. A wrongful death suit would be a situation where a personal injury attorney may come into play as well. 

Deciding to Hire An Attorney After An Accident

Depending upon the type of accident you’ve been in, it can be difficult to know what type of attorney to hire to represent you and help you to win your case. Some charges, like those we mentioned above, can lead to criminal prosecution, but civil charges will almost always end in some sort of compensation for the victim if fault can be proven. When you are in need of a criminal defense attorney to defend your rights after an accident, choose one that you can trust. 

Former CPD Officer Acquitted In Involuntary Manslaughter of 22-Year-Old Woman 

It’s always tragic to hear of yet another fatal shooting in Chicago’s west side, but even more so when it involves an off-duty law enforcement officer who was accused of gunning down a young woman. Despite this case happening in 2012, there still hasn’t been a satisfying resolution for this woman’s friends and family, as the accused was acquitted in 2015.

According to the statements released by prosecutors, a shortened version of events follows. Twenty-two-year-old Rekia Boyd was shot on March 21st, 2012 while standing outside of a party with her friends. Dante Servin, the man accused of accidentally killing Ms. Boyd, exchanged a few words with some of the people standing outside of the party while driving by, when one of them reached for his cell phone. 

Mr. Servin took this as him reaching for a gun, so he reached across his body and shot in the direction of the man. One of his shots hit the man with the cell phone in the hand and another one hit Ms. Boyd in the back of the head, fatally injuring her. 

After this incident, Mr. Servin resigned under what he called “extreme duress” in 2016, just before a hearing that may have led to his firing. In the years since the charges were first brought against Servin he has been found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. More recent attempts to get the charges expunged from his records were met with denial in order to prevent him from working in law enforcement again, unfortunately. Mr. Servin, who had worked full-time as a detective since 1991, has had a lifelong dream of being a police officer and was quite decorated during his time with CPD. 

Judge Porter, who oversaw the initial involuntary manslaughter charges against Servin, does not deny that a crime was committed on that late night in March of 2012, but prosecutors were not able to convince the judge that Mr. Servin committed involuntary manslaughter. While it may have been his police training that forced him to move so quickly, Mr. Servin says that the incident was the only time in his 25 years of service that he ever fired a shot. 

Although there may not ever be a satisfying conclusion to this case for the family of Rekia Boyd, she will live on in their memory. Mr. Servin may not have found his “closure” either, with his dreams of a career in law enforcement dashed, but at the very least he is glad not to be put behind bars for the incident. It is rare that police officers, even off-duty, are charged in cases like these, given how much trust the public typically puts into law enforcement.