If I was arrested on suspicion of burglary but then released with no charges filed, can the victim still take me to court for damages?

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If I was arrested on suspicion of burglary but then released with no charges filed, can the victim still take me to court for damages?

It was burglary first degree; no charges were filed and now I’m being harassed about the damages by the victim.

Asked on May 3, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes: the alleged victim could sue you for damages. The criminal law system and the civil system (i.e. lawsuits) are  completely separate--while a judgment in one can often be introduced as evidence in another, you can be convicted of a crime while not being sued or winning of a lawsuit, or be successfully sued if not prosecuted or convicted.

So in the first place, an adjudication in the criminal system does not control what happens in the civil system, and since the standard of proof is significantly lower in the civil system than in the criminal (preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not, versus beyond a reasonable doubt), it's not uncommon for someone who did not face criminal liability to nonetheless face civil liability--OJ Simpson springs to mind (acquitted of criminal charges, but lost the lawsuit).

Moreover, you say no charges were filed--that means that your criminal matter was never sent to court, and thus there is no adjudication whatsoever. All that happened is that the prosecutor decided to not prosecute, which has no bearing on what the alleged victim may do.


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