The university admissions and bribing case involving big-name celebrities has consumed newspaper headlines for months. According to a letter from a lawyer who represents both Lori Laughlin and the University of Southern California in separate matters, USC may have a future civil claim against the actress.
Anyone facing criminal charges knows how stressful the matter can be. After all, you may lose your freedom following a conviction. Further, defending yourself may cost a significant amount in resources. Still, what you pay in legal fees for a criminal case may be considerably less than a future civil settlement or judgment. Even worse, you may find yourself defending a civil lawsuit even after an acquittal on criminal charges.
The element of control
Whether you face criminal charges in state or federal court, the government has control. After all, the criminal justice system does not allow victims to bring charges. Instead, prosecutors represent both the victim and society at-large. That is not the case with civil court proceedings. Instead, in civil court, the victim decides which complaint to pursue. While a prosecutor may decide to negotiate a plea, downgrade charges or request dismissal for a variety of reasons, convincing a plaintiff to compromise may be tough.
The legal standard of proof for criminal and civil cases is different. To secure a conviction in criminal court, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the charged crime. This is a high legal hurdle for prosecutors to overcome. In fact, you cannot find a higher threshold anywhere in the law. The legal standard for civil cases, though, is somewhat less. That is, to prove liability in a civil case, plaintiffs usually must show you bear responsibility by a preponderance of evidence. Said another way, if it is more likely than not that you caused injury to a plaintiff, you are likely to lose in civil court.
Defending yourself against criminal charges must be your top priority. Still, you must take a multifaceted approach to your legal predicament. By understanding how criminal charges may eventually lead to a costly civil suit, you can likely better plan for an acceptable outcome.