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An Acquittal in Criminal Trial May not Bar Civil Case

A jury in Albuquerque has been hearing evidence in a case where, according to a state investigator, a police officer hit his accelerator as a vehicle driven by 21-year-old Ashley Browder went through an intersection. Ashley was killed by the impact and her 19-year-old sister, Lindsay was injured by the powerful collision. The investigator who testified at the trial estimated the police officer, Sgt. Adam Casaus, accelerated about 2.5 seconds prior to impact.

According to those observing the trial taking place before a District Court judge here in New Mexico, the case is expected to last through the week commencing September 29, 2014. The officer could face up to nine years for the vehicular homicide and reckless driving causing great harm charges the jury will be considering.

Even if the officer is acquitted in the case, he, or his former police department – City of Albuquerque police – could also face a potential personal injury suit by Lindsay Browner who survived the accident as well as a wrongful death claim from the Browder family. While most families have strong reasons to see that justice is done in such criminal cases, this kind of case is not the only avenue for relief for such families. As was demonstrated well over a decade ago by the O.J. Simpson murder trial, acquittal in a criminal case does not equate with immunity from civil liability. However, in many states, police officers or their departments may be protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.  If such doctrine were to be deemed to apply, Sgt. Casaus and his former employer may have protection from such a suit. Typically, questions of sovereign immunity can be particularly complicated. Those who are injured by police officers need to consult New Mexico personal injury attorneys who are knowledgeable about the application of sovereign immunity to determine if someone who sustains personal injuries from an automobile accident may have a viable claim for recovery.  

The attorneys at Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. represent individuals in personal injury suits in New Mexico. Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm’s website at for more information

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