The Difference Between Criminal and Civil Sexual Abuse Cases
Sexual abuse is a terrible crime that causes immense pain to not only individuals affected but whole communities. The perpetrators of sexual abuse are reserved especially harsh punishment by the justice department due to the egregious nature of their crimes. Those that suffer at the hands of sexual abuse have to not only cope with the mental and emotional trauma caused by their abuse but also may have to deal with a number of more tangible physical damages that can affect their financial wellbeing and quality of life. Seeking justice after sexual abuse can also encompass the pursuit of compensation for damages in addition to punishing the perpetrators of abuse via the criminal justice system. These two aspects of seeking justice take place in two very different fields of law which are criminal law and civil law.
Criminal vs Civil Law in General
Our society requires the presence of laws and regulations for a variety of very different aspects of life. It is because of this that many different specialized areas of law exist with their own rules and procedures. Criminal law and civil law are just scratching the surface of all of the many legal fields that exist. For the most part, people are more familiar with criminal law than any other field thanks to the media portrayal of the justice system typically revolving around this specific area of law. This has led to many misconceptions over the legal process in other legal fields.
In the case of personal injury, someone will primarily be dealing with civil law which is mostly concerned with the relations and disputes between private members of the community in which compensation is awarded to the victim. Criminal law is instead focused on the punishment and penalization of those that break the law.
The burden of Proof in Civil vs. Criminal Cases
One core difference between civil and criminal law is the burden of proof. The amount of convincing evidence required in civil cases is much lower than criminal prosecution. This is because civil cases have a burden of proof based on a preponderance of evidence which means that the plaintiff who has the burden of proving their claim only has to prove that there is a greater than 50% chance that their claim is true. Basically, they only have to prove that what they say happened is very likely as opposed to the burden of proof in criminal law which is beyond a reasonable doubt and requires pretty much a virtual certainty demonstrated by available evidence.
Punishment in Civil vs. Criminal Law
Another major difference between criminal and civil law is in the nature of punishment. Most of us are familiar with many of the punishments that come with criminal law such as jail time, fines, community service, and in some states even death. These different punishments all are proportionally doled out depending on the nature of the crime committed and other details of the case. Criminal law seeks to provide societal accountability for citizens that break the laws brought forth by the community and enforced by the government.
In the case of sexual abusers, punishment is severe and can take the form of prison time lasting anywhere from five years to life imprisonment depending on details like the age of the victim, whether a weapon or physical force was used, the age of the offender, prior charges, and the severity of the sexual abuse. Sexual abusers also may be forced to register as sex offenders and even may have to wear a tracking device in some cases.
Punishment and Sexual Abuse Civil Cases
Civil law is not about punishing people that break the law but instead is focused on resolving disputes between private parties. The goal for most civil cases is to determine whether or not someone is owed compensation for injuries caused by a defendant’s negligent actions. While civil law does not involve sending people to jail, defendants can end up having to pay punitive damages in cases where their negligence is especially heinous. One might argue that the financial consequences of having to pay out a large award to a plaintiff is a punishment in itself.
When it comes to sexual abuse, criminal law is only concerned with determining whether or not a defendant is guilty of a crime and punishment if they are found guilty. Victims that are seeking compensation for injuries caused by sexual abuse have to file a civil lawsuit. In many cases, a plaintiff will have to look beyond the actual abuser for compensation and see if a third party may be liable for the damages they suffered. For example, schools are often the setting for many cases of sexual abuse of children yet teachers sometimes get hired despite histories of sexual offense which can make the school a liable third party. The same thing happens with the Catholic Church which has negligently allowed priests with histories of a sexual offense to continue abusing children.
Speak to a Bradenton, Florida Sexual Abuse Attorney
Sexual abuse impacts survivors and their families long after the abuse comes to an end. Child victims can experience long-term emotional and behavioral issues, often for decades. Criminal justice only serves as a part of the puzzle for holding abusers accountable. You also deserve compensation for losses related to abuse and trauma. The money will not turn back the clock, but it can provide funding for treatment and recovery. Sexual abuse survivors often require costly behavioral therapy with a mental health professional to work through the trauma they experienced.
If you take action against your abuser or someone who abused your child or a vulnerable adult in your life, you can confront the abuser as well as prevent others from falling victim in the future. An empathetic and compassionate sexual abuse attorney can help you through the difficult process of seeking justice in civil court. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at (941) 961-8841, or you can write to us using our online contact page.
6703 14th Street West Suite 207
Bradenton, FL 34207
Phone: (941) 961-8841