When you are charged with a crime against another, like shoplifting, petty theft, vandalism, or hit-and-run, a criminal case is initiated against you by the government. The victim may also file proceedings against you in the civil court. Keep in mind that the victim’s claim has nothing to do with the criminal court’s charges; however, the victim has the right to file a lawsuit in the civil court if they feel like it. If the victim doesn’t file a case in civil court, then you won’t have any civil charges for your crime.
What is a civil compromise in California?
It’s a method for which an alleged criminal, who is charged with a misdemeanor, can potentially have his or her case dismissed after compensating the victim for any damage his or her crime caused. Civil compromise in a criminal case is a kind of restorative justice, that lets both parties come up with a resolution that meets their needs. The good thing about the civil compromise is that the victim is compensated, the matter is resolved in a quick and efficient manner, and the defendant doesn’t get a criminal record.
The compromise is granted only when:
The crime is a misdemeanor: In California, the civil compromise is only available for misdemeanor cases and is not allowed in felony cases. Compromise is also not granted for misdemeanor cases that are committed against a child, against an elder, in violation of court order, or with intent to commit a felony.
The same act results in civil and criminal liability: For instance, burglary is a crime, and if the burglar has taken or damaged property, the property owner would also be eligible to file a claim against the burglar. Usually, the perpetrator’s sentence will feature an order of restitution which saves the victim from having to incur the cost and struggle of filing a civil suit.
The victim formally says that they are content by the compromise: Before the claim goes to trial: The victim has to declare before the judge that they are satisfied with the settlement, and should do so before the trial starts.
The judge must agree to the compromise: This is to make sure that the settlement is fair to both parties.
Pursuing a civil compromise
The accused can seek a compromise by talking to the prosecutor, through his or her lawyer, or by appealing directly to the victim. Regardless of the approach, the process should be handled with care to avoid complicating the issue. The same applies to victims – they too can talk to the prosecutor, but should handle the matter delicately. Those who don’t adhere to the law could go to jail for compounding a crime or extortion.
The value of legal help
Whether you are the accused or the victim, consulting with a criminal defense lawyer will help you understand the process and also inform you about the best course of action that you can take. The lawyer will tell you if the case is suitable for civil compromise, and the necessary steps that you can take. Trying a civil compromise case without full understanding may only jeopardize the victim, their family and even further criminal charges.