Criminal Prosecution Versus a Civil Lawsuit in a Sexual Misconduct Case

Sexual misconduct of different types can result in very serious charges against the perpetrator. If convicted of a crime involving sexual misconduct, an accused potentially faces a variety of sanctions:

  • Long prison sentence
  • Lifelong parole supervision
  • Lifelong requirement to register as a sex offender
  • Steep fines and expensive court costs
  • Loss of employment

Seeking a criminal offenses attorney DC trusts with a long track record of successfully representing people have been charged with a full spectrum of crimes involving different allegations of sexual misconduct can be an important first step.

Civil Actions in Sexual Misconduct Matters: An Overview

Criminal sanctions imposed on someone convicted of a crime involving sexual misconduct are usually significant. A skilled attorney understands that for the victim, even if their assailant is found guilty, that may not be enough. Worse is if the alleged wrongdoer is not prosecuted, has their charges dismissed. or is found not guilty after a trial. The victim may then wish to take further action against the accused.

Criminal Prosecution Versus a Civil Lawsuit

It is important for a person being accused of sexual misconduct to understand the difference between a criminal prosecution and a civil action.

Civil Lawsuits

A civil lawsuit pits an accuser directly against the accused in a matter involving sexual misconduct. The accuser files a lawsuit in court contending that he or she was the victim of some sort of sexual misconduct perpetrated by the person named as the defendant in the lawsuit.

In addition to making a specific allegation of sexual misconduct, the accused summarizes the injuries and damages supposedly experienced because of the actions of the defendant. For example, a plaintiff is this type of lawsuit may allege damages and injuries that include:

  • physical injuries
  • emotional distress
  • medical expenses
  • lost wages

Criminal Prosecution

In a criminal prosecution, it is the state that brings the case, not the complaining witness (oftentimes referred to as the victim even before a jury determines guilt). If a criminal case results in a conviction, the defendant may be required to pay financial restitution. However, that dollar amount will be far less than what a complaining witness is likely to seek in a civil lawsuit.

Standard of Proof in Criminal Versus Civil Cases

The standard of proof is much higher in a criminal case. The standard of proof — what it takes to convict a person — is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” What this means is that no other logical conclusion can be formed other than that the defendant committed the crime. The prosecution carries the burden of proof leading into the finding. In other words, the state must demonstrate that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In a civil case, the standard of proof is lower. The standard of proof in a civil lawsuit is a preponderance of the evidence. What this means is that it is more likely than not that the facts are presented by the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit are true. The plaintiff does have the burden of demonstrating this, but in a civil case, it is a far simpler task.


Thank to our friends and contributors from The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C. for their insight into sexual misconduct cases.

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