Have you been the victim of a recent assault? If so, then you have two distinct legal avenues for obtaining justice: criminal charges and a civil lawsuit. The following article takes a closer look at some of the key considerations involved regarding this issue.
A key difference between criminal and civil proceedings is that a criminal action is meant to punish the offender, while a civil case is intended to provide compensation to the victim. For this reason, a criminal assault conviction might result in jail time for the defendant, while a successful civil lawsuit typically requires the defendant to compensate the victim financially.
Another important difference between the two involves the person or persons in charge of your case. In a criminal assault proceeding, the state prosecutor has total control over prosecuting the case and makes all of the decisions. In a private civil action, you are in charge and make the final decisions through an attorney hired to conduct the case on your behalf.
Also, the standard of proof is different for criminal and civil actions. In criminal court, the prosecutor must convince a jury that the assault occurred beyond a "reasonable doubt." In civil court, your attorney must only convince a judge or jury that the defendant is guilty of assault based on a "preponderance of the evidence", a lower standard.
If you press criminal charges against someone who assaults you and also decide to pursue a civil case, the two cases will not run concurrently. The criminal case takes precedence and the civil case will be delayed until a verdict has been rendered in criminal court.
It can actually be to your advantage to have the criminal case decided first. The judge in the civil case may allow your attorney to use the guilty verdict in the criminal case as evidence to support your civil suit.
People who are not fully familiar with the concept of double jeopardy might believe that it protects someone from being a defendant in both a criminal case and a civil action. This is incorrect, however, as double jeopardy only applies to criminal cases. For this reason, you are well within your legal rights if you choose to pursue both a civil and criminal case against an individual who assaults you.
The relationship between criminal case and civil litigation in assault case is a complex legal topic. For more information on this subject, contact an experienced legal firm, such as Johnson Law Office, PLLC, for more information.