In the U.S. legal system, there are basically two different venues through which to pursue actions; civil and criminal. Sometimes the facts of a single case will be brought before both courts. They may even advance almost concurrently. Most often, though, the proceedings progress independently.

The deciding factor on timing may have to do with the availability or necessity of evidence required. Criminal cases tend to require a higher standard of proof to warrant prosecution. That being the case, civil suits such as those that might arise out of an accident that caused injury or death might move ahead more quickly. It depends on the merits of a given case.

What brings all this to mind is a case that made news out of Huntsville this week. Authorities announced the grand jury indictment of a Beaumont driver on charges of intoxicated manslaughter with a vehicle. The accident happened about 18 months ago, in April 2012.

Two people died in the three-vehicle crash and two others were injured. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the driver of an SUV drove down the wrong side of Interstate 45 and collided head on with a smaller car. That vehicle then spun and struck a third vehicle.

Authorities suspected that the SUV driver was impaired, but he claimed that another passenger in his vehicle was actually the one who was driving. Because of that claim, the prosecution says it decided to collect DNA evidence from inside the SUV.

Officials say it took this long for the results of that testing to come back. Once they had it, they brought the case to the grand jury. 

It’s not known if any of the victims of the accident have sought compensation through civil action. If they have not, the delivery of the indictment might serve to bolster such claims.

Source: ItemOnline.com, “Wrong-way driver charged in crash,” Cody Stark, Oct. 22, 2013