A recent article in the Washington Post discussed the public outrage that occurred after former Baylor University fraternity president Jacob Anderson received no jail time after taking a plea deal in a sexual assault case.
Although initially charged with four counts of sexual assault after being accused of raping a 19-year-old woman at a party, Jacob Anderson now only faces one lesser charge – unlawful restraint. He was fined $400 and will go to counseling in lieu of jail time, with a chance to have the charge dropped from his record in the future.
Unfortunately, many (obviously including the victim herself) feel the criminal justice system failed in this case. However, the victim may have another chance to hold her assaulter responsible if she chooses – a civil lawsuit.
Criminal case versus a civil case
There are some differences between these two types of legal actions.
- Burden of proof. In a criminal sexual assault case, the attacker is presumed innocent until proven guilty. So, the prosecutor must prove that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If there’s even the slightest possibility the alleged attacker didn’t commit the crime, he’ll be found not guilty. However, with a civil lawsuit, you only need to prove that it’s more likely than not that the attacker is liable for your injuries.
- End goal of the case. In a criminal assault case, the law’s goal is to determine whether your attacker is innocent or guilty. Any financial restitution the court may order the guilty party to pay is secondary to the criminal punishment (jail, probation, etc.). With a civil lawsuit, the goal is simply to determine if your attacker is liable for the injuries and damages resulting from your assault. These can be either physical or emotional injuries, or both. And, if you win your case, the guilty party will be responsible for any financial restitution.
- Control over the case. If your attacker is charged with criminal felony or misdemeanor, the state controls the court case, and your involvement is minimal, as a witness. If your attacker is found guilty, the state imposes the punishment. If you bring a civil case, however, you’re in charge of all the major legal decisions about your case. You can decide if you want to settle out of court or bring your case to trial.
A sexual assault can turn your life into a nightmare. Bringing your attacker to justice can help you get your life back on track again.
If you suffered sexual abuse or assault at the hands of another person, you have rights and we intend to protect them. Talk to the Los Angeles sexual assault attorneys at Taylor & Ring for compassionate and strong representation. Get in touch with us today at 310.310.776.6390 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.