According to a recent news article from The Boston Globe, there may be a path for some military veterans to avoid a criminal conviction for drunk driving if they complete a specific pretrial diversion process. Pretrial diversions are nothing new, but one specifically for drunk driver who are also military vets is new and is causing a great deal of controversy, even among some veterans themselves and others who have nothing but the utmost respect for the brave men and women who risked their lives to serve our nation.
The cases stemmed from a 2012 law that created a specific path to avoid prosecution for military veterans. This law, officially called the Valor Act, gives judges discretion to allow military veterans to go to specially designed rehabilitation programs to help them learn to not drink and drive and better return to civilian life. There is no question that it is very hard for many military veterans, especially those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, to return to what we would consider a normal prewar life, given the incredible and often unimaginable experiences they had while serving overseas.
As our Boston drunk driving accident lawyers can explain, the reason there is so much controversy is that it is hard for some to balance the real issues faced by these returning veterans, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and some of who have become dependent on drugs or alcohol to deal with physical or emotional pain, with the suffering of drunk driving victims and their families.
One thing to keep in mind is that many pretrial diversion processes require a defendant to accept guilt prior to accepting the deal. Basically, a defendant pleads guilty, and, instead of being convicted and sentenced, he or she is given a list of programs and conditions that must be satisfied and completed in a set period. If the defendant completes these requirements, he or she can likely withdraw the guilty plea or the case is continued without a finding. This is a CWOF in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
While this is obviously helpful to a defendant in terms of avoiding being found guilty in a criminal court for drunk driving, this does not excuse that same defendant from liability in a civil car accident lawsuit. If fact, the admission required to take the CWOF or other pretrial diversion may be used against defendant in a drunk driving lawsuit, because the conduct must be proved in both cases, and admission can certainly help to do that.
However, this is a complicated issue, and a lot depends upon the facts pertaining to your car accident. For this reason, the best thing you can do is speak with an experienced drunk driving accident lawyer as soon as possible to see if you have a valid claim. It is also important to remember that standard of proof in a civil case is not the same as required in a criminal case. In a criminal case, a prosecutor may be willing to offer a deal when they have questions about whether they can prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is much higher than what is required to win a civil case in connection to a drunk driving accident.
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
SJC ruling helps vets avoid OUI trials, April 18, 2017, Sean P. Murphy, Boston Globe
More Blog Entries:
Former NFL Quarterback Vince Young Given Probation for Drunk Driving, Feb. 7, 2017, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog