The majority of personal injury cases today arise out of
auto accident injuries. While many different factors contribute to unsafe driving in
Maine, for decades authorities have targeted driving under the influence
(DUI) because of the large numbers of fatalities and serious injuries
that drunk driving accidents cause.
In the spring of 2013,
US News reported that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted to
encourage states to lower blood alcohol content (BAC) from .08 to .05
for DUIs. All states have the right to establish their own BAC limits,
but as of 2004, all states set the BAC at .08 for DUI arrests. While the
NTSB estimates that a .05 BAC limit will reduce drunken driving fatalities
by 1,000 persons a year, criminal prosecutors believe that a .05 BAC would
increase the difficulty of obtaining
DUI convictions. For one thing, many people with .05 BAC levels would not
have trouble passing a Field Sobriety test. Criminal conviction requires
proving the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and when a
driver does not appear impaired, the burden of proof is difficult to establish.
By comparison, in a civil case such as a personal injury lawsuit, the burden
of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance
of the evidence requires convincing the jury that it is more likely than
not (greater than a 50 percent certainty) that the defendant’s negligence
caused the injury and property damages.
Drivers with .05 BAC levels may indeed appear negligent and responsible
for damages allowing an attorney to win a civil case even though the criminal
prosecutor decides not to indict or is unable to win a DUI conviction.