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ojQuite often, many varieties of criminal acts can become the basis of civil lawsuits for monetary damages.  There are times when these criminal acts results in in an injury, death or damage to a person or organization’s property.  For example, someone who commits an assault and battery might be the defendant in both a criminal prosecution brought by the government and a civil case brought by the victim.  Even though there are concurrent cases in this situation, double jeopardy is not an issue because only one is criminal.

Typically if the criminal case is unresolved, the defendant’s lawyer will likely advise their client to remain silent in order to avoid self-incrimination.  This may lead to delays in civil proceedings, as a case may be postponed until the resolution of the criminal proceedings.  Judges frequently opt for the stay or continuance, because waiting for decision of the criminal case can simplify the proceedings. Not only can issues like refusal to testify be avoided, but the criminal litigation can resolve some of the issues involved in the civil suit. A continuance refers to resetting the date or time on which an event, such as a hearing or a prehearing conference, is to take place; and a stay (of proceedings) refers to the suspension of all due dates for submissions or events.  A party desiring an extension of time, a continuance, or a stay, must file a motion in proper format, that states good cause, indicates that it has contacted opposing counsel, or the unrepresented party, and states whether the opposing party consents, does not oppose, or objects to the motion.

What is a criminal case?

A criminal case is based on an offense against society’s rules.  The police are involved in investigating the crime and a person (referred to as suspect) is charged with a crime and brought to court.  The state of Florida (or the federal government) will be the one charging the suspect with a crime, not the actual victim.  The government has to prove that the suspect committed the crime.  In a criminal case, the suspect must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Crimes where the suspect could go to jail for more than one year are called felonies.  Crimes where the suspect could serve a year or less in jail are called misdemeanors.

It is interesting to note that while O.J. Simpson was found Not Guilty in the murder trial of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Lyle Goldman (The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson); he was found culpable in civil court. Both the Brown and Goldman families sued Simpson for damages in a civil trial that came to a total of $40 million. On February 6, 1997, a jury unanimously found there was a preponderance of evidence to hold Simpson liable for damages in the wrongful death of Goldman and battery of Brown.