Crime Victim: Accepting Money to Halt a Criminal Prosecution
UPDATED: October 29, 2010
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The State may not have a good case against you. The victim can still initiate a civil case against you. The burden of proof is lower in a civil case than in a criminal case. Cases move slowly in civil and criminal court. Typically, a person alleged to have committed an offense that caused great financial damage must go to criminal and civil court in reference to the same incident. The threat of having many court dates is enough to make most people settle. Criminal and civil court dockets usually last for hours. If you are appearing with an attorney, the attorney will charge you for the time they spend in court.
The victim files the civil case as an incentive for you. They want you to pay their damages before the criminal case goes to trial. The implication is that if you settle in the civil case, they will persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges against you in the criminal case. The victim has a reason to try and get money out of you before you face a criminal trial. They may lose their ability to recover from you if you are sentenced to jail time, prison time, or probation that restricts your employment.
A victim can ask to have a record of related criminal court proceedings admitted into evidence in their civil case. The prosecutor can ask to have a record of the related civil court proceedings admitted into evidence in the criminal case. It is within the discretion of each judge to allow or disallow the other courts proceedings to be admitted into evidence in their case.
The resolution of one case may or may not affect the resolution of the other. A victim can succeed in a civil action against you, yet you can prevail in the related criminal case. You can prevail in the civil case, yet be found guilty in the criminal case. It depends on how the judges and/or juries of the two courtrooms see the facts.
A victim who does not care about recovering money from you is likely to ask that their civil case be delayed. They want your criminal case to be resolved first. In certain situations, the victim is more likely to win a civil suit if you have already been found guilty of the offense in criminal court.
If the victim asks you to pay compensation in exchange for refusing to testify in the criminal case, and they also promise to drop their civil case, should you take the offer? This decision is up to you. You should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who is also a civil defense attorney on this matter.