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Can I Be Sued in a Civil Court While Facing Criminal Charges?

Posted on June 3, 2021 in

Yes, you can face civil and criminal charges at the same time in Massachusetts. These are two separate justice systems with separate consequences for defendants. You may face a civil lawsuit against you from the injured victim of your crime at the same time as criminal charges from the government for the crime itself. These two types of cases have different standards for holding you accountable. If you find yourself in a situation where you are facing both criminal and civil charges, contact an attorney immediately.

Criminal vs. Civil Charges

If you are suspected of a crime in Massachusetts that resulted in property damage or bodily injuries to a victim, you may also become the defendant in a civil lawsuit. A crime and a tort are two different things with two different standards and legal procedures. A crime means you broke a state or federal law. A tort is a civil wrongdoing, or something that a reasonable and prudent party would not have done in the same circumstances.

One of the main differences between criminal and civil charges is the burden of proof:

  • Civil case: a preponderance of the evidence. If someone sues you, he or she must prove using clear and convincing evidence that you are more likely than not (with at least 51 percent certainty) accountable for the injuries in question. The plaintiff must prove that you breached or violated a duty of care, meaning that you acted in a careless or reckless manner and that this caused or greatly contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • Criminal case: beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof in a criminal case is higher than in a civil case. It requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor in your criminal case will be tasked with providing enough evidence to establish that you committed the crime(s) in question with a level of certainty that is beyond a reasonable doubt.

Another key difference between a criminal and civil case is the person who files the charges. The county prosecutor will file criminal charges, while the injured victim or his or her surviving family members will file a civil action. In addition, different remedies are available with each type of case. A criminal charge penalizes the defendant, while a civil lawsuit makes an injured victim whole again through a financial award. Although part of a criminal sentence may be paying victims restitution, a civil lawsuit can provide full financial compensation.

Can Your Criminal Defense Lawyer Help You With a Civil Lawsuit?

You could be facing serious, life-changing consequences as a defendant in both a criminal case and a civil case. If you are convicted of a crime and found liable for a victim’s damages, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in fines and a settlement, as well as other consequences such as jail time. The best way to protect yourself from the worst possible ramifications of both types of cases by hiring one or more attorneys.

An attorney will have the legal knowledge, experience, resources and staff members to help you with the charges you are facing. In general, you will need to hire two different attorneys: a criminal defense lawyer and a civil defense lawyer. It is uncommon for one lawyer to specialize in both types of defense. Your defense attorney(s) can explain the laws that are relevant to your case and create a customized legal strategy for your defense.

It may be possible to avoid going to trial in both the criminal and civil justice systems. For example, your criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid a criminal trial by negotiating a plea deal with the prosecutor on your behalf. Similarly, your civil defense lawyer can negotiate with the plaintiff’s insurance company to try to reach a settlement agreement. Successful negotiations in both types of cases could keep you out of court – saving you time, money and stress.