Criminal v. Civil Lawsuits in Criminal Sexual Conduct Cases

After alleged criminal sexual conduct (CSC), you may face criminal charges.  At Prain Law, PLLC, we can help you fight criminal charges, but we cannot help you after you enter a plea. We encourage you to read our blog to learn why you need a reliable defense team, but please do not contact us about civil lawsuits.

Whether or not we are successful in reducing or dismissing your criminal charges, you may also face a civil lawsuit. The main difference between criminal and civil lawsuits in criminal sexual conduct cases is this: criminal cases are filed by the state (the prosecution) and pursue punishment, and civil charges are filed by the individual who accused you of the crime (the plaintiff) and pursue restitution.

There are several other differences, as well, which we will discuss below:

The Burden of Proof

In both civil and criminal lawsuits, the burden of proof is on the party bringing about the case – the plaintiff in civil lawsuits and the prosecution in criminal cases. This means that the plaintiff or prosecution is responsible for proving their case and convincing the court of any alleged wrongdoing.

That being said, evidentiary standards differ in civil and criminal lawsuits. The prosecution must prove their case is true beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal proceedings, while the plaintiff must prove their case under a preponderance of the evidence in civil proceedings. Under the preponderance standard, the plaintiff must only convince the court that there is a greater than 50% chance their claim is true.

If you receive a conviction for criminal charges, you are unlikely to win a civil lawsuit for criminal sexual conduct. That is just one reason why it is so important for you to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney from the moment police start investigating you.


The burden of proof is higher for criminal cases because the consequences are more serious. In a criminal lawsuit, the person being charged (the defendant) is facing fines, jail time, and other losses of freedom. In a civil lawsuit, the defendant may only be on the hook for damages, or money paid to the plaintiff. Still, civil liability can have a dramatic effect on the defendant’s life, as some courts award thousands and even millions of dollars to plaintiffs.


Another major difference between civil and criminal lawsuits has to do with the defendants. In criminal proceedings, every defendant faces their own charges and gets an opportunity to negotiate a plea or prove their innocence. In civil cases, there may be multiple defendants.

For example, if a teacher is accused of criminal sexual conduct at school, they may face criminal charges from the state. The teacher will then have an opportunity to defend themselves in criminal court. If the school principal is involved in the allegations, that person may face a separate criminal lawsuit.

In civil court, the teacher and the principal would become defendants in the same lawsuit, and they could be ordered to split the financial consequences.

Put more simply, most criminal lawsuits have a single defendant, and civil lawsuits often have more than one.


Defendants can reach favorable resolutions in both civil and criminal cases. A good attorney can help you get certain criminal charges dropped, fight for a “not guilty” verdict, or help you negotiate a plea deal if you wish to plead guilty in criminal cases.

Because civil cases are about liability, a good lawyer can shield you from liability or help you “settle” the case for less money. You should also note that accusers have more control of civil trials, which means they control whether or not a suit comes forward, what evidence comes into the courtroom, and when the case ends. Civil lawsuits require a different set of skills, so look for a lawyer that specializes in these types of cases. As a reminder, our team only handles criminal charges and active criminal investigations.

If you need help resolving a criminal sexual conduct case, look no further than Prain Law, PLLC. Our firm focuses exclusively on these types of cases and offers strong defense in your time of need. We refuse to lose.

If you have been accused of criminal sexual conduct, please call us at (248) 731-4543 or contact us online today. If your case fits our practice areas, we will schedule a free consultation immediately.


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Prain Law, PLLC is focused only on the types charges featured on our website. This helps us deliver the decisive, effective advocacy for which our clients know us. We only serve individuals currently under investigation or who have a current case pending in court. Our firm does not represent injury victims, defendants who have already taken a plea or have been sentenced, or those seeking to expunge a criminal record. We do not respond to anyone who is not involved in a pending investigation or who has a court case for a type of charge we do not handle, but we wish you the very best of luck.