When good people get in trouble: Missouri (816) 875-0470 Kansas (913) 624-9646

Most people are not intimately familiar with the American justice system. Therefore, it isn’t news that the divide between civil lawsuits and criminal proceedings can seem foggy. In fact, a civil lawsuit and a criminal trial are two completely different things. One suit’s outcome has no effect on the result of another. A civil lawsuit can never be turned into a criminal proceeding. However, it is important to understand that a civil lawsuit could possibly trigger a criminal trial. 

Civil & Criminal Lawsuits in Kansas and Missouri

Cause and Effect

Most of the time, criminal lawsuits start first, and a civil lawsuit often doesn’t begin until the criminal suit is finished. This is a fairly common process because prosecutors are often worried that a victim’s credibility may be hurt by their interest in a previous civil claim. Many jurisdictions allow a longer statute of limitations for starting a civil lawsuit so that criminal cases can be decided first.

There are some rare cases where a civil case can start a criminal case. For example, discovery conducted during the civil lawsuit may show that the defendant did criminal wrongdoing. It’s possible for the defendant to be arrested and tried in a criminal court if law enforcement takes sufficient notice of the crime.

Civil Lawsuit vs Criminal Lawsuit: Separate Entities

It doesn’t matter if a civil lawsuit starts before a criminal one or vice versa. The outcome of one case has no bearing on the other. You may be familiar with the OJ Simpson murder trial. Simpson’s criminal case resulted in a not-guilty verdict. However, in a civil lawsuit filed by the victims’ families, he was deemed financially liable for two deaths.

The same discovery and the same witnesses are often used in both cases when civil and criminal matters are tied. Whichever case is tried last often experiences a more streamlined and efficient prosecution.

If you or someone you know is looking for legal advice, contact Miller & Terry today! Call our Kansas office at (913) 624-9646 or our Missouri office at (816) 875-0470.