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Pros and Cons of Civil and Criminal Cases for Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a heinous crime that can leave victims with psychological and physical trauma for years to come. Far too often, however, the perpetrators of these crimes go free because of the stigma victims face when coming forward and because of the difficulty of legal proceedings in these cases. When victims make the decision to hold their abusers legally accountable, they must also choose whether they want to proceed with their case in a civil or criminal court. There are pros and cons to each option, a few of which are listed below.


  1. In civil cases, the victim controls the case. A pro of civil cases is that the victim controls the case and the important decisions in it. These decisions include whether you want to take a settlement offer or go to trial and how present you want to be during the proceedings.
  2. In criminal cases, the state controls the case, which means the victim has to serve as a witness during trial, which can be traumatic for victims to have to relive their experience, see their abuser, and suffer an onslaught of questions from the defense attorney who is trying to get their abuser to go free.
  3. In criminal cases, the state must prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which requires considerable proof for conviction. In civil cases, on the other hand, the defendant can be held liable if they are more likely to have committed the crime than not, which often means it is easier to prove liability in civil cases than it is to prove guilt in criminal ones.
  4. If the defendant is found guilty in a criminal case, they will receive punishment by the state such as prison time or probation. In civil cases, the defendant will usually pay damages if found liable. Neither outcome is necessarily better than the other as it depends on what the victim wants out of their case. Some victims may want financial recompense for what they have suffered and others may want to see their abuser pay for their crime in jail time.

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If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault, there is help for your situation. Whether you want to pursue justice in a criminal or civil court, the experienced Waukesha personal injury attorneys at Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® are here to help you every step of the way and ensure you receive the justice you deserve for the injustice you have endured. We understand how difficult these cases are and how much courage it takes to come forward and seek help, and we are committed to ensuring our clients receive the justice they deserve. If you have any questions or would like to speak to one of our qualified Waukesha sexual assault attorneys, please contact us at (414) 271-0900 today.