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When a Victim of Sexual Assault Files a Civil Lawsuit

When a perpetrator sexually assaults another person, they could be dealt severe charges. The accused, if convicted, can face fines and expensive legal fees, a prison sentence, supervision by the Department of Corrections for long periods of time, registering as a sex offender and loss of employment. In addition to their criminal case, the alleged perpetrator may be facing a civil suit as well.

Criminal Prosecution Versus a Civil Lawsuit

Penalties when someone is convicted of a crime can include time in prison, or even severe fines, as a criminal attorney Fairfax VA trusts can attest. When a perpetrator is found guilty, the criminal sanctions may not be enough in the eyes of the victim who has suffered the assault. It is vital to recognize the difference between civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution in case the alleged perpetrator is accused of sexual assault. Following a conviction, a victim may choose to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator because a victim can receive a higher amount of compensation than what they may be awarded from the criminal trial.  

Criminal Prosecution

  • The victim of sexual misconduct does not bring the case to the court during a criminal prosecution case.
  • Financial restitution to the victim may be awarded if the perpetrator has been convicted of the crime.

Civil Lawsuits

  • The victim of the sexual assault is responsible for filing the lawsuit against the perpetrator with their lawyer.
  • At times, a victim can be awarded more financial compensation in a civil lawsuit than at a criminal trial.
  • The victim will be responsible for putting together a summary of their injuries that were acquired from the accused. Damages could include: lost wages, medical cost, emotional distress, and physical injuries

Standard of Proof

The standard of proof is what it takes to convict someone of the crime.

  • Criminal Cases
    • In criminal cases, the standard of proof is much higher than in civil cases. In a criminal case, in order to find someone guilty, there must be no doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
    • The state is charged with proving that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Civil Cases
  • A civil case is much easier to prove than a criminal case.
    • The standard of proof is much lower in civil cases.
    • In a civil case, it is more likely than not that the facts brought forth by the victim are presented as true. This is called a preponderance of the evidence.

If you are either the victim of the sexual misconduct claim or, the accused, consulting an attorney in this area of expertise is a good place to start. They can help you negotiate not only the criminal case, but the civil case as well.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Dave Albo Attorney for their insight into criminal defense.