A frequent question regarding a California sexual abuse claim – whether related to a child or on adult – is whether it is possible to bring a civil claim for damages where the police either failed to arrest the person or where the perpetrator was never prosecuted or convicted. The short answer is that a victim can indeed bring a successful claim against the perpetrator and other parties in such a case, and there are several reasons for this.
Simply put, while “innocent until proven guilty” may mean that a sexual abuser does not go to jail without a conviction, this of course does not mean that the abuse did not occur. It also does not mean that they will get away with their abuse. Instead, a private attorney can bring a civil litigation claim against the abuser and others to recover the financial costs associated with the abuse and hold wrongdoers who let abuse happen accountable.
There is a Different Standard of Proof Applicable to Civil Cases
One important reason why it is possible to win a sexual abuse claim when there is no conviction is that the standard of proof necessary to win a civil claim is far lower than in a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, prosecutors must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant was guilty of each element of the crime charged. This is a very high standard indeed, especially when there are few if any witnesses, and thus can be quite difficult if the abuser does not confess to police that he committed the crime.
In a civil case, the standard of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence.” This only means that the plaintiff’s attorneys must convince the jury that it was more likely than not the case (more than 50% likely) that the abuse occurred.
In addition, in many cases, a defendant will be motivated to settle the case outside of court based on this lower standard of proof.
Prosecutors Must Pick and Choose the Cases They Bring
Prosecutors work for the taxpayers, and they will use their own discretion to bring criminal charges. They don’t want to lose cases when they cannot prove a case by showing evidence demonstrating guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – even if it appears to them that a person did commit a crime – as doing so wastes resources. Thus, there may be many cases in which a person is clearly responsible for committing sexual abuse but does not face a criminal trial.
Again, however, this does not mean that the abuser and other responsible parties cannot be sued. A private civil litigation attorney working on your behalf will be responsible only to you, and will do everything in his or her power to go after all responsible parties to win justice for you, including the abuser, anyone with a legal duty to prevent the abuse, and the abuser’s employers if necessary.
Speak to a California Attorney About Your Sexual Abuse Claim
The civil litigation attorneys at The Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC, with offices in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, have many years of experience representing men and women from all walks of life in pursuing the justice and compensation they deserve. For help in understanding the next steps in bringing your sexual abuse claim, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.