Can I Sue Someone For Sexual Assault in Civil Court?

Can I Sue Someone For Sexual Assault in Civil Court?

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, you should be aware of the legal recourse available to you. In California, both sexual assault and rape are considered criminal offenses and can be prosecuted. However, you can also take action in civil court. Read on to learn the differences between civil and criminal sexual assault cases.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a crime under California law. It is defined in the California Penal Code as the touching of another person’s intimate parts (sexual organ, anus, groin, buttocks, or breast) against that person’s will for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse. This encompasses a wide range of things from unwanted groping or kissing to being forced to touch the perpetrator sexually.

Sexual assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. If it’s charged as a misdemeanor, it can be punishable by up to 6 months or in some cases a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, or $3,000 if the defendant was the victim’s employer. If it’s charged as a felony, it can result in up to four years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

On the other hand, Penal Code 261 PC defines rape as an act of sexual intercourse that is accomplished against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury. It also includes clauses for if the person is intoxicated, mentally or physically disabled, or unconscious, as well as if the act is committed by a person who threatens to retaliate if the act is not completed or is a public official threatening to use their authority to incarcerate, arrest, or deport someone if the act is not completed.

Rape is always charged as a felony and is punishable by up to 8 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. It also requires lifetime registration as a sex offender. This punishment is different if the victim is a child, in which case the perpetrator could receive 15 years to life imprisonment.

What Recourse Do Sexual Assault Victims Have?

If you’ve been sexually assaulted or raped, you have a criminal case on your hands. It’s important that you seek medical attention immediately and undergo a rape kit which will include photographs to document what happened. You’ll also want to report the assault to the police in order to pursue a criminal case.

In a criminal case, law enforcement will investigate the situation and arrest someone if they believe there is enough evidence to charge them.  If the case makes it to trial, the prosecutor will be representing the state, not you. You may be called as a witness to testify, but ultimately what happens in a criminal trial is out of your hands. If the state chooses to pursue the case and take it to court, the perpetrator may take a plea deal, be acquitted, or be convicted and sentenced to jail time. If convicted, any financial restitution awarded to you will probably be low.

This may sound extremely unfair. Luckily, you do have another option: you can file a civil claim. In a civil case, the claim will be handled by the accuser and their attorney. You can sue the perpetrator for damages and you can also sue any other entity that may have been responsible for the perpetrator’s acts, such as their employer. This lawsuit will be completely separate from any criminal trial that occurs.

While a civil case will not lead to jail time, it can lead to financial compensation that far surpasses the amount you can receive in a criminal case because you can seek compensation from all involved parties to cover your medical expenses, any lost income, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.

It is important to note that the burden of proof in a civil lawsuit is lower than in a criminal case, where the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff must only prove that the defendant committed the assault by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that it is more likely than not that the assault occurred. This means that it is possible for a person to be found not guilty in a criminal trial but still be found liable in a civil lawsuit.

Is There a Statute of Limitations?

In California, a person that was assaulted as an adult has 10 years from the date of the last act or 3 years from the date the victim discovers an injury or illness resulting from the sexual assault. On the other hand, childhood survivors of molestation have until their 40th birthday to file a civil claim or up to 5 years from the date the victim discovers an injury resulting from the abuse.

If you are considering pursuing legal action against the person who assaulted you, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced attorney who can help you understand your options and advise you on the best course of action. Our team here at Hayes Law is well-versed in sexual assault law and we understand how difficult a situation like this can be. That’s why we’re committed to helping our clients get the compensation they deserve, and doing so with an empathetic ear.

We understand that money can never make up for the pain caused by your sexual assault experience, but we’ll do everything in our power to hold your abuser accountable in court. Schedule a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case and learn more about your options.