Many people assume that the double jeopardy protections in the United States Constitution mean that you can only face one legal case for a specific incident. This is a misconception that some people realize isn’t factual too late. It is possible to have to answer to two types of cases that both stem from one event.
Here are some points to remember if you are facing two cases from one alleged criminal action:
Criminal vs. civil matters
Some criminal matters, such as drunk driving cases or even assault cases, can result in a criminal charge and a civil claim. The civil claim often comes as a personal injury case that allows the victim of the incident to seek compensation for monetary damages.
There are many differences between these two types of cases. The criminal matter is associated with severe penalties that can include probation, incarceration, fines and other similar possibilities. The court is the entity that upholds the penalties handed down. The person who is convicted of a crime doesn’t have the option of deciding not to comply with the penalties without facing even more serious ones.
In a civil case, the possibilities are much less serious. For the most part, a civil award is going to be monetary only. There isn’t a possibility of going to prison as a result of the civil case unless a party in the matter is found to be in contempt of court. This doesn’t mean that the civil case should be ignored because the financial impacts can be considerable.
Resolutions are independent
The outcome of a civil case and a criminal one are completely independent. You can be found liable for an incident in a civil case but be found not guilty in the criminal case for that matter. This is what happened with the O.J. Simpson case. The opposite is also true, so be prepared to face two distinct battles if you are in this position.
Defendants shouldn’t ever let their guard down, no matter what they think of their case. Even if you are considering a settlement for the civil matter and a plea deal for the criminal matter, you need to keep your defense on point until the cases are officially resolved. Up until that point, anything can happen that might mean that you are heading toward a trial or two.
There is a chance that some aspects of your case might overlap, so some points might remain consistent. Just make sure that you consider the specific things that matter to the court you are going to face.