Differences Between the Criminal DUI and Civil Implied Consent Cases

Every DUI/DWI event has a potential of two cases stemming from the incident – the criminal case and a civil case arising out of the Implied Consent process.

Read about the important differences in the burden of proof the State has in each case and what the different timelines are for the criminal and civil processes.

The criminal case, the DUI, arises out of a stop, an arrest, and evidence being gathered, and whether your rights were presented at all stages in the process. The civil case, the Implied consent Proceeding, arises out of the Minnesota Implied Consent Law, and whether your rights were preserved at all stages of the Implied Consent portion of the DUI event.

The State has the burden of proof in both criminal and civil cases, but that burden is different in the criminal and civil cases; and you have rights in both the criminal and civil procedures, but those rights are a little different in the criminal and civil proceedings.

In the criminal case, an officer has to have a reasonably articulate suspicion that a driver is doing something unlawful in order to stop the driver. Next, an officer has to have probable cause to believe that the driver is in control of the motor vehicle and is under the influence in order to arrest the driver for DUI. Finally, an officer has to collect evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was driving under the influence in order for a driver to be later convicted of DUI. Reasonably articulable suspicion is a lower burden to meet – simply weaving or crossing the traffic lines on the roadway could be sufficient. Probably cause requires a little more to meet: An officer will usually ask drivers to step out of their cars and walk a straight line, or touch their noses – these field sobriety tests are a means for an officer to determine whether there is a probably cause to believe a driver is driving while impaired and, therefore, whether the officer can arrest the driver.

Although the standard of “probable cause” for the actual arrest and detention is a lower burden for the officer to meet, when it comes to actually being convicted of the crime of DUI/DWI, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt – the highest standard in the criminal justice system – that a driver is either under the influence of alcohol while driving or had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more while driving or as measured within two hours of driving.

Last, an officer will ask a driver – usually at the police station – to take a chemical test. This is the implied consent portion of the process, and the moment when the civil proceeding begins. The criminal procedure is still occurring while the civil procedure occurs.

Why do drivers have to take a chemical test? Isn’t taking a chemical test forcing drivers to give up their right against self-incrimination? This is perhaps the most confusing part of DUI. It’s important to know that there is no absolute civil right to operate a motor vehicle, and that the State of Minnesota can use its police powers to regulate, limit and control the use of Minnesota’s highways and streets. Because courts recognize how important driving is to most people – to get to work, to get to school, to visit family and friends. Because courts recognize how important driving is to most people, the privilege of driving cannot be capriciously or discriminately denied or withdrawn. However, it is also in everyone’s best interest to keep our roads safe for everyone to use, too. So, in 1961, the Legislature enacted the Minnesota Implied Consent Statute, which everyone signs when he or she receives their driver’s license, and which basically says that you agree that in exchange for the privilege of driving, you will consent to give evidence against yourself (in the form of a chemical test) if you are arrested for driving under the influence.

The burden of proof the State has in the Implied Consent proceeding is much lower than in the criminal case. The State must only prove by a preponderance of the evidence – which means simply that “it’s more likely true than not true” – that the driver violated the Implied Consent Law by not taking a chemical test.

What are your rights in the criminal and the civil cases? Only a lawyer can explain to you, after analyzing your case, whether your rights were preserved or not in all stages of the criminal and civil proceedings.

You have a number of very important rights in the criminal proceeding. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Law & Order, you’ve heard the speech that begins with, “You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney; if you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you…” This is known as the Miranda Warning, and it comes from a case, entitled Arizona v. Miranda, and from the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments to the United States Constitution. You have a right to not talk to police officers, investigators, insurance agents and other individuals about your case. You have a right to have a lawyer with you every time one of these individuals does talk to you, and you have a right to know the charges against you and to challenge the State’s case against you. Again, only a lawyer can protect your rights throughout your case. The sooner you contact an attorney, the better your attorney will be able to protect your rights and ensure you get the best result possible in your case.

In the civil case, your rights are more limited. You still have a constitutional right to talk to a lawyer during the implied consent encounter; however, because the implied consent portion of the proceedings is considered an evidence-gathering process. Again, only an attorney can tell you if your rights were preserved and only an attorney can ensure that your rights are protected during the implied consent proceeding by filling an implied consent petition on your behalf.