Do you know the difference between a criminal case and a civil case based on a sexual assault or sexual abuse? Each day our law firm receives calls from victims of sexual assault who confuse a criminal prosecution for sexual assault with a civil action based on sexual assault. It is very important to know your rights, whether criminal or civil, and choose an appropriate, experienced victims attorney.
Here is a brief comparison between a criminal case and a civil case:
- A criminal case is brought by the State to hold accountable the perpetrator through criminal penalties such as jail or probation;
- A civil case is brought by the victim or the victim’s family to hold accountable the perpetrator and any other third parties, including institutions, who are responsible to the victim. A civil jury can assess only monetary compensation for damages for the victim’s injuries as well as punitive damages to deter similar future conduct;
- In a criminal case, the victim is a witness. The victim can participate in the proceeding but cannot direct the State (through a prosecutor) on the progression of the case;
- In a civil case, the victim is a party who hires a personal lawyer and therefore is entitled to all important information related to the case as it progresses, such as settlement negotiations;
- In a criminal case, the State must prove the perpetrator’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt;
- In a civil case, the victim must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendants are liable;
- In a criminal case, the perpetrator is presumed innocent until proven guilty;
- In a civil case, all parties are equal before a judge or jury. There is no such presumption of innocence.
Each state has different laws related to both criminal and civil cases. It is very important for a survivor of sexual assault to consult with a lawyer experienced and knowledgeable in handling sexual abuse cases in civil court.
If you or your child was sexually assaulted, The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt stands ready to help you understand your legal needs. We speak and act from experience and success.
You may confidentially contact our office at 214-503-7300 or through our website: http://tkmlawfirm.com/. You can also connect with The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt through LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tahirakhanmerritt, Twitter at https://twitter.com/MerrittTahira, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/childrensexabuseattorneys, to stay up to date on the latest information on issues important to survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse and their families.