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Why Civil and Criminal Issues Overlap in Sex Abuse Cases

Jul 05, 2018 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

If you have been accused of a sex crime, you may have to defend yourself in both criminal and civil legal proceedings. Your most immediate concern is likely the criminal offenses you’re accused of committing. You are rightly worried. Being found guilty of a sex offense can lead to imprisonment and require you to register as a sex offender. However, it is essential that you keep track of the potential civil consequences of a sex offense conviction. Allegations that can lead to criminal charges may often lead to a secondary civil lawsuit.

If you have been accused of a sex offense in California, you should speak with an experienced sex crimes attorney at Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer about the criminal and civil aspects of sex abuse cases. Contact us today at (559) 443-7442 to schedule a free and confidential evaluation of your case.

The Same Accusations Can Result in Civil and Criminal Cases

You may not realize that allegations of violence or sexual abuse can lead to both criminal and civil liability. Accusations of sexual misconduct may or may not lead to criminal charges. Sexual battery, rape, child sexual assault, and child sexual exploitation are only some examples of sex crimes and sexual misconduct. Whether a prosecutor decides to charge a person with a sex crime depends on the facts of the case and the strength of the evidence. Furthermore, criminal proceedings will focus on whether you are guilty or innocent of breaking the law.

When an individual is physically, emotionally, and/or financially injured due to your negligence or intentional misconduct, that victim has the right to pursue a civil claim for compensation. This is known as a personal injury lawsuit, and it is not focused on whether you are innocent or guilty. Instead, it focuses on whether you are liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Filing a civil lawsuit is the victim’s own choice – it has nothing to do with a prosecutor. Whether or not your actions were criminal, the injured victim can attempt to hold you responsible for the alleged harm you caused. That is why a civil lawsuit based on sexual violence can be pursued whether or not prosecutors move forward criminal charges.

Some victims wait to file a civil case until a criminal sex abuse case is resolved. However, they cannot wait too long, otherwise the statute of limitations may run out. Victims may file a civil lawsuit while a criminal case moves forward, and the two cases may proceed at the same time.

A Judgement in Either Case May Affect the Other

For you to be found guilty of criminal charges, prosecutors must establish that you committed the sex offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a higher burden of proof than in a civil case. A civil proceeding only requires the plaintiff to prove you caused them harm by a preponderance of the evidence. If you are found guilty in a criminal case, this verdict can be admitted as evidence into the civil trial. Because the guilty verdict is based on a higher standard, it drastically increases the likelihood that you will be held civilly liable as well.

If you are found responsible in a civil case, the prosecution can use this as evidence in the criminal case. Because the civil case relies on a lower standard, a finding against you is not as strong of an indicator for the outcome of the criminal trial. However, it is still evidence that a jury may take into consideration. Likewise, if you are found not liable in the civil case, this can be utilized in your criminal defense.

A Not Guilty Verdict Does Not Dissolve Civil Liability

A not guilty verdict in a criminal trial does not mean the civil case will resolve in your favor. It does not mean that you can have the civil case dismissed or that you will win those proceedings. Criminal cases require a very high standard of proof. The prosecution may not meet the high burden of a criminal case, yet the plaintiff in a civil case may be able to meet the lower burden of proof. You may escape a criminal conviction, yet still be found liable for the victim’s injuries. As a result, you could be held responsible for paying the victim a significant sum of money.

Have You Been Accused of Sex Abuse?

If you have been accused of a committing a sex offense, whether or not you have been charged yet, do not hesitate to contact Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer for help. We have years of experience defending individuals in criminal and civil cases. We are well aware of the overlap between criminal sex abuse cases and civil lawsuits. Similarly, we can advise you of your potential liability and help you prepare to defend yourself on both fronts.

Call us today at (559) 443-7442, or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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