Many of our clients are confused as to the difference between a civil case and a criminal case. Many may have two pending and they do not understand how that can be possible. Civil and criminal court are two very different court. They follow different procedures, different statutes and can be started simultaneously from the same set of facts.
Let’s consider an example. Let’s say that David and Victor are at a bar. There is a heated discussion between the two men and David hits Victor. The authorities are called and David is arrested and taken into custody by officers. He is additionally charged with a Los Angeles assault under California Penal Code §240. Additionally, Victor has opted to sue David for a million dollars worth of damages in civil court. The question many of our clients have is if David can have both cases filed against him. The answer is yes.
When a person has been charged in criminal court, the case is between the government, or the State, against the defendant, in this case David. The person who was allegedly injured has relatively little say whether the charges get filed or not. That is up to the District attorney or city attorney’s discretion. The government attorney will also offer plea bargains, similar to negotiations, to get the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser sentence or charge and have the case be completed.
Civil court on the other hand can be the product of extensive litigation. When a case is filed in civil court, it is between parties. The government is not the one bringing the suit. The alleged victim brings the suit and states damages they have incurred for the harm. In this case, if Victor brings a civil suit against David and asks for damages, he is likely going to argue that David injured him and cost him extensive medical bills, loss of wages, emotional stress and so forth and so on. Whether these allegations of damages are true or not will be a determination made by the Judge as each side begins to present their sides, evidence, arguments, testimony and the like.
If your case has been dropped in criminal court, this does not necessarily mean your case will be dropped in civil court. In civil court the case may only be dismissed either once the Judge has heard the evidence and arguments, and has made a determination, or both parties elect to settle the case or have it dismissed.
Civil cases are lengthy, costly and take an emotional toll on a person. Criminal cases can be settled rather quickly, especially with the help of an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney.