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.