The Difference Between A Civil Lawsuit And Criminal Sex Abuse Charges

November 21, 2022


Sexual assault or abuse charges can be processed as criminal or civil matters depending on the type of charges pressed. However, some cases can end up in both courts.

During our service as criminal defence lawyers, we have seen that many individuals have used the terms criminal charges and civil lawsuit charges interchangeably without realizing how different they are.

Keeping this in mind, we have curated this blog to help you understand the main difference between criminal charges and civil lawsuit charges.

What Is A Criminal Case?

A criminal case involves an individual who is being charged with committing a crime that is considered an act against the Crown. In this case, the crown is responsible for laying the charges through the police. In these cases, the complainant does not have any say in how the case is handled and the burden of proving ‘guilty beyond reasonable doubt’ lies on the prosecution.

The accused is prosecuted according to the statutes laid by the Criminal Code of Canada or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The ultimate goal of a criminal case is to determine whether the accused is guilty or not. Any act of deliberate violence, such as assault can be processed as a criminal case.

Read Also: All About The Law Of Consent When A Person Is High

What Is A Civil Case?

A civil case is a case filed by the complainant who is represented by his/her/their own lawyer. In civil sexual assault cases, the complainant has to prove two things for the balance of probability:

  • The defendant committed a sexual assault
  • The amount of monetary damages caused

In these cases, the jury is responsible for deciding whether the complainant is speaking the truth or the accused.

Once the civil lawsuit has been filed, the complainant is free to make any of the following decisions:

  • Determine if they want the case to proceed or abandon the case at any instance
  • Instruct their lawyer to seek to recover and agree to a specific negotiated damage amount without going to trial
  • Have their immediate family members join the lawsuit by advancing a Family Law Act claim for loss of guidance, care, and companionship

In addition to this, if the complainant passes away, their estate can continue to prosecute the claim.

The ultimate goal of a civil lawsuit is to make the defendant pay the sum of monetary losses he/she/they caused the complainant. The decision of whether the defendant is liable or not is taken by the jury.

Potential Outcome Of Criminal Case

If the crown proves ‘guilt beyond reasonable doubt’, the accused will have to serve jail time depending on the gravity of the crime committed.

If the sexual assault crime involves a victim who is 16 years or older, the accused can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison. However, for more aggravated situations where the complainant is less than 16 years or where a weapon was also involved, the accused can receive a jail time of up to 14 years.

The Potential Outcomes Of A Civil Lawsuit Case

If the jury decides that the accused is liable for damage, he/she/they will be required to pay the damages that were caused to the complainant. These might include damages for pain and suffering, psychological damages, and medical and ongoing therapy expenses. In addition to these, punitive charges to punish the accused might also be added to the list.

In cases where the family of the complainant is also affected, they might also receive some compensation for loss of guidance, care, and companionship under the Family Law Act.

About Slaferek Law

Thanks to our team’s diversity and expertise in different areas of criminal law, we are able to defend clients charged with all different types of offences. Our team of professional criminal lawyers draw from their experience to reap the best possible outcomes for our clients. Learn more about Slaferek Law and our team.

Looking for someone who can defend you against a sexual assault charge? Contact us now.

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Contacting Darin H. Slaferek

We specialize in criminal law, delivering ethical, effective, and efficient legal solutions that prioritize the best interests of our clients.