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How Your Criminal Conviction Can Impact Your Civil Lawsuit

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4 months ago

If you are charged with a criminal offence in the Greater Toronto Area the outcome of the case may play a distinct role in any related civil litigation that may arise. For example, getting charged with a DUI that involves an accident in which another driver is suing you for damages. Or criminal assault charges in which the injured party is suing for damages.

Some Toronto-area people arrested for a criminal offence fail to account for the potential affect a conviction may have on any subsequent civil litigation. These defendants — often without consultation with a competent criminal lawyer — plead guilty or accept a plea bargain thinking that it’s the easiest and cheapest means of resolving their situation. That easy way out, though, can come back to haunt them during civil litigation and turn that easy way out into a very expensive proposition.

Likewise, some defendants who may have their own claims for damages, fail to realize that the outcome of their criminal case may impact their ability to successfully win a civil claim. Any negative outcome in a relevant criminal trial can and will be used to challenge liability claims from a civil litigation plaintiff.

Experienced lawyers, such as those at Mass Tsang , are well aware of the implications the outcome of a criminal case might have on civil litigation. As such, they typically work to strategize defence tactics that will provide the best outcome at trial, as well as offer optimum support for any potential civil litigation needs.

Criminal Trial Evidence and Verdict Hold Weight in Civil Trial

The admissibility of criminal trial evidence and verdicts in civil trials is codified in Canada’s Evidence Act . The legislation is designed to limit potential re-litigation of facts that have already been determined by another court. The admissibility of convictions is restricted, though, to those that can no longer be appealed, whether due to appeal dismissals or expiration of time for appeals.

When criminal trial evidence is entered into a civil case as evidence, the judge must decide whether the facts of the criminal case merit standing in the civil case and weigh how much significance it has. There are no set rules on how this plays out during the proceedings and such evidence is addressed on a case-by-case basis.

The admissibility of a criminal conviction into a civil case is essentially used to offer proof in support of the material facts that led to the conviction. This serves to give such evidence merit in the civil trial. However, this proof is considered “ prima facie ,” which means that the defendant in the civil litigation still has the right to challenge it. That said, the conviction certainly sets the bar high for such challenges, as the defence essentially has to prove that the original conviction was flawed. To surmount this high bar, the defence would have to offer new evidence that conclusively proves that the original ruling was wrong or prove that the criminal case was somehow corrupted.

Once admitted as evidence, the civil court weighs how much standing it should have in the litigation. At this point the court will continue to consider any new evidence, if available, as well as any potential anomalies with the criminal proceedings. Judges typically weigh the type of conviction, too, with guilty pleas carrying less weight than a conviction by ruling, as a guilty plea omits the criminal court’s consideration of much of the evidence.

No Matter the Weight, a Criminal Conviction Hinders the Civil Defence

No matter how much weight a civil trial judge gives to a criminal conviction and its support of evidence presented at a criminal trial, the civil litigation defendant is facing an uphill battle. If you’ve been convicted of physical assault causing injury, it’s certainly going to prove almost impossible to argue that that you shouldn’t be held liable for the injury. Even if your civil defence lawyer manages to call into question some of the prima facia proof of your conviction, the burden of proof in civil cases is lower than it is in criminal cases. A criminal case conviction must be based on the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the person committed the office, while a civil court judgement hinges only on the “balance of probabilities” that the defendant is liable.

Consult with a Criminal Defence Lawyer for the Best Outcome

A criminal defence lawyer is tasked with helping you navigate through the complexities of criminal law and secure the most favorable outcome possible. Such favorable outcomes extend into the civil litigation realm when applicable. An experienced criminal lawyer will be attuned to the implications of potential civil litigation and will factor such into defence strategy considerations. If you are aware of civil litigation related to your criminal case, be sure to inform your criminal defence lawyer. Likewise, if you plan to file a liability case against a party involved in your criminal case, your defence lawyer needs to know.

While your criminal defence lawyer will likely not be directly involved in the specific legalities of any related civil litigation, the work he’s doing on your behalf in the criminal case can play a role. Thus, your criminal defence lawyer should consult with your civil litigation defence lawyer, once you secure one.

Contact the Expert Criminal Defence Lawyers at Mass Tsang

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, don’t try to mount a defence without expert legal help. By contacting the highly experienced lawyers at Mass Tsang , we can help ensure that you fight the charges with the most effective defense to produce the most favorable outcome, including the mitigation of potential liability claims.

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