The American justice system is divided into two parts: the criminal law system and the civil law system. In criminal law, defendants are prosecuted by the state; in civil law, citizens can bring lawsuits (a tort action) against each other. If you have been arrested, you may face charges in criminal court that will be brought by the state. If you have injured another person, you may also face a civil lawsuit.
If I’m Arrested, Will I Face Civil Lawsuits?
If you have been arrested, a civil lawsuit may be possible, depending on the charges. Crimes that involve injuring another person, such as battery, DUI car accidents, robbery, and dog bites resulting from an owner’s negligence, are referred to as torts, and entitle those harmed to seek monetary damages.
Other crimes include:
- Destruction of property;
- Vehicular manslaughter; and
- Any other crimes against a person or property.
Any crimes against another person’s property can also result in paying monetary damages, either to replace the item or to pay for the item’s value at the time it was destroyed.
But What If I Am Innocent?
If you have been found innocent in a criminal case, you may still be taken to court in a civil lawsuit. An innocent verdict does not keep a victim from pursuing a damages award in civil court. It only means that they will need to build up the case again and present evidence to prove that you did enough to be civilly liable.
It is not uncommon for defendants who have been found innocent in criminal court to lose a civil suit. This happens because civil courts use a lower standard of evidence (clear and convincing evidence) than criminal courts (beyond a reasonable doubt).
Can I Be Evicted If I’m Arrested?
If you have been arrested and are worried about being evicted from your home, you will need to go over your lease agreement. If you broke the terms of the lease by engaging in the activity that led to an arrest, it may be possible for your landlord to evict you. If you have Section 8 housing, it is important that your arrest doesn’t involve illegal drug activity. If you were arrested for drug crimes, it can lead to you losing your Section 8 housing.
For instance, if the lease states that you will not disturb the peace, but you were arrested for spousal abuse, then this may be grounds for eviction. In this example, there are two separate cases, battery and eviction, and both will be decided separately.
If you were arrested away from the property that you are renting, or if your lease does not reference tenant behavior or arrest, it is less likely that an eviction will follow.
Can I Be Fired If I’m Arrested?
Unfortunately, it is possible that you may be fired following an arrest. Employers retain their employees at-will, which means they can terminate employees for any reason so long as the reason is not illegal. While being arrested is not allowed under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it can lead into your employer asking about the underlying reason for the arrest.
If the conduct leading to the arrest is enough to make your employer concerned about your integrity as an employee, then it can lead to your arrest. So, even if the arrest was for behavior that had nothing to do with work, you may still face termination.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges and/or a civil lawsuit, you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately. The consequences of arrest can be severe, and an experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights and represent your best interests in court.