If you have been the victim of domestic violence, you may be entitled to recourse through both the civil and criminal justice systems. The civil courts will determine issues such as whether to award you custody of any children that you may have or whether or not to award compensation for your injuries. However, the result of a criminal trial may have some indirect influence on a civil case.
Civil Cases Have Different Standards of Proof
In a criminal case, an individual (or their criminal defense lawyer) must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, a plaintiff simply has to prove that it is more likely than not that the incident took place. Therefore, showing bruises or showing proof of prior threats by an abuser may be enough to win a case.
Furthermore, a family law judge may also make a custody ruling based on the preponderance of the evidence. In other words, you simply need to show that an abusive spouse or partner may be a danger to his or her child, even if the child hasn’t been an abuse victim in the past.
No One Goes to Jail in a Civil Case
If a judgement is made against your abuser in civil court, he or she will not go to jail. At most, he or she will lose custody to his or her children and may be given an order not to come near you. However, if an order made in a civil court is violated, that person may go to jail for being in contempt of court.
How Criminal Trials Impact Civil Trials
In a technical sense, the outcome of a criminal trial doesn’t have a direct bearing on the outcome of a civil trial. Conversely, the outcome of a civil trial won’t have a direct bearing on the outcome of a criminal trial. This means that a person could be convicted in criminal court but get a favorable ruling in a civil court. The opposite scenario may also be true.
However, evidence introduced in a criminal trial could be used to show that there was no intent to cause harm or that any injuries a victim suffered were in self-defense. This is why it is important to have competent legal counsel on your side to make sure that any such evidence is put into context. Doing so may make it harder or impossible for anyone to claim that you played a role in getting hurt.
Talk To An Attorney
It is important that you talk with an attorney, like a family lawyer Arizona trusts, when bringing a civil or criminal case against an individual for domestic abuse. Legal counsel may be able to help you gather appropriate evidence to present a strong case against your abuser. For instance, it may be possible to obtain medical records and statements from doctors to bolster your assertion that injuries were caused in an attack by your partner. Such evidence may also show that these wounds were not incurred because the other person was defending him or herself.
A domestic violence incident could cause both physical and emotional wounds. Fortunately, it may be possible to get compensation in a personal injury case for both your physical injuries and emotional trauma as well. This may make it easier to provide for yourself, and any children that you may have, both emotionally and financially.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hildebrand Law for their insight into domestic violence and family law litigation.