Sexual Abuse - Plaintiff Law

How Is Sexual Assault Litigation Different from Criminal Prosecution?

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to sexual abuse.

Sexual assault is a crime but can also be a civil offense. Sexual assault in civil and criminal court are handled differently, and the victim of sexual assault has legal rights in both types of sex crime cases.

If you want to know how sexual assault litigation works in your state, talk to a local sexual abuse attorney for legal advice. A sexual abuse civil attorney can tell you about your legal options and how a civil lawsuit can help you recover money from the abuser.

Sexual Assault Civil Cases

Assault, including sexual assault, is known as an intentional tort. A tort is a wrongful act under civil law that allows the injured victim to file a civil claim to get financial compensation for their damages. Types of intentional torts include assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

civil sexual assault lawsuit is filed by the plaintiff, who is the victim of the assault. The lawsuit will seek damages for wrongful conduct by the defendant, the perpetrator of the assault. In a civil court, the plaintiff seeks financial damages for economic and non-economic losses caused by the assault.

Damages in a civil sexual assault case can include:

  • Medical bills
  • Loss of income
  • Continuing mental health care
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Pain and suffering

Criminal Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a crime and can be prosecuted in criminal court. In a criminal prosecution, the district attorney or prosecutor files the case, and the plaintiff is usually the state. The alleged criminal is the defendant. The consequences of a criminal conviction for sexual assault can include jail time, fines, parole, community service, sex offender registration, and a criminal record.

A criminal case can be prosecuted with or without the alleged victim’s cooperation. If the victim of sexual assault doesn’t want the perpetrator to be charged, the prosecutor can still go forward with the criminal proceedings.

In some cases, sexual assault can be a federal crime. A federal crime is filed in the federal criminal justice system, and punishments are served in federal prison.

Is the Burden of Proof Different for Civil and Criminal Cases?

The standard of proof is different in civil claims and criminal trials. The burden of proof is what you have to show to win your case. For a criminal trial, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, the burden is “a preponderance of the evidence.”

A preponderance of the evidence means more likely than not or more than 50%. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a higher standard which means there aren’t any reasonable doubts that the defendant is guilty of the sexual assault charges.

Can I File a Sexual Abuse Civil Case if the Abuser Was Never Convicted?

Given the difference in the standard of proof, a defendant can be found not guilty of a crime and still be liable in a civil case. In some situations, the prosecutor may not even prosecute the sexual abuse case because they don’t think there is enough evidence of the crime. However, the abused victim could still try to get compensation for their injuries through a civil suit.

There may also be a difference in the statute of limitations in civil and criminal abuse cases. The statute of limitations is like a time limit for filing a claim. If the criminal statute of limitations has passed, the prosecutor can’t file criminal charges against the defendant.

Many states have extended the civil statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse. Survivors of sexual assault may be able to go forward with legal proceedings in civil court years after the abuse occurred. If you want to know how to get personal injury damages after suffering sexual abuse, talk to a civil sexual assault attorney for more information.

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