It's fairly common knowledge that you could be sued in civil court if you knowingly let someone drive while intoxicated, but did you know you could face criminal penalties as well? In fact, you yourself could be charged with a DUI in some states for letting someone get behind the wheel of a vehicle while drunk, depending on the circumstances of the case. Here's more information about this issue and what you can do to defend against these types of charges.

Possible Criminal Charges

According to statistics provided by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), approximately 27 people are killed every day in drunk driving accidents. DUIs are such a pervasive issue in America that states use a variety of methods to stop people from engaging in the act, including criminally charging people who enable intoxicated individuals to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. There are a few ways this can happen.

Some states have laws that specifically address this issue. Tennessee, for instance, has DUI by consent laws. If you allow someone to drive your vehicle who you know is intoxicated, you and the person can be charged with DUIs, be made to pay fines and fees, and have your licenses revoked. It's not even necessary for you to be on the scene when the person is arrested for driving under the influence. All that needs to be established is that you consented to letting the intoxicated person operate your vehicle. Therefore, you may want to be careful about whom you give permission to use your car.

Other states use aiding and abetting laws to charge people who let others drive under the influence. Aiding and abetting is a legal doctrine that holds people responsible for participating in the commission of a crime. Since driving drunk is illegal, anyone who helps a person commit this crime by giving the individual keys to a vehicle knowing the person is intoxicated can be held criminally liable under these laws.

A third way a prosecutor could come after you for letting someone drive drunk is through reckless endangerment laws. Reckless endangerment is defined as conduct that creates a substantial risk of injury to the person engaged in the behavior or other people. There doesn't have to be an intent to cause harm. However, the harm that does result must be a foreseeable consequence to the perpetrator's actions.

For example, three male Connecticut teens were charged with reckless endangerment after letting their female friend drive drunk. All the teens piled into the girl's SUV after leaving a party where alcohol was served. Each boy drove the vehicle to his respective home. The last male teen gave the girl the keys to the SUV allegedly knowing she was too intoxicated to drive. Unfortunately, the girl ran into a tree soon after and died. Although the boys didn't intend for the girl to get hurt, it was the foreseeable outcome of letting her get behind the wheel of the SUV while she was intoxicated.

Possible Defense

The key element in charges of these kind is whether or not you knew the person was too drunk to drive. Since most people don't carry breathalyzer machines around, it can be tough to determine how drunk someone is, especially since some people can consume large quantities of alcohol and not show signs of intoxication.

In general, courts will use the "reasonable person" standard when determining whether you should have known the individual was drunk. For instance, if the person was slurring his or her speech and stumbling around, a "reasonable person" would infer the individual was drunk. Therefore, one defense is to provide evidence showing the person didn't appear to be intoxicated and there was no way for you to know how much alcohol the individual had consumed.

There may be other ways to defend yourself against criminal charges related to letting someone drive while intoxicated. It's best to contact an attorney for assistance with defending yourself in this type of case. Look for a criminal defense attorney in San Bernardino, CA or your local area to get started.