When it comes to
sexual assault cases, not only do defendants face conviction in criminal court, they
may also be liable in a civil lawsuit filed by the plaintiff. A civil
lawsuit is typically the only way that a sexual assault victim can recover
monetary damages for the physical and emotional harm suffered, and will
continue to suffer.
Criminal vs. Civil Cases
Criminal trials carry the highest burden of proof under law, commonly known
as “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words, if the jury
has any reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s innocence, they may
not convict them.
Plaintiffs in sexual assault cases are called to the witness stand and
asked to relive the alleged incident in front of strangers, which can
be an emotional experience. If, after all that, the defendant is found
either “not guilty” or the jury cannot reach a decision (i.e.
hung jury), the plaintiff may be feeling angry, betrayed, or ashamed.
Alas, their next remedy may be a civil sexual assault lawsuit. In civil
law, the burden of proof is much lower compared to criminal law, known
as “preponderance of the evidence.” Simply put, the plaintiff
must convince the judge or jury that the accusation is more likely than true.
Types of Civil Lawsuits
In civil law, there is no such thing as a cause of action for “sexual
assault.” Rather, the plaintiff is able to file a lawsuit for one
of a number of “intentional torts”--a wrongful act that resulted
in harm to the victim.
Common possible arguments under which to sue include:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress (for bystanders or witnesses
to the act)
- False imprisonment
Due to the nefarious nature of sex crimes, a jury will typically award
very high damages. As a result, the defendant can be held liable to pay
a substantial amount of money. In most cases, however, if the defendant
is not particularly wealthy, it may be extremely difficult--if not impossible--to collect.
For more information,
College Station criminal defense attorney at
The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. today.