Civil Consequences of Being Arrested

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What Is the Civil Justice System?

The legal system is divided into two parts: the criminal system, where the state prosecutes citizens, and the civil system. The civil system is the side which deals with non-criminal law.

If you are arrested by a police officer, you may be prosecuted by the state in a criminal court.

If I’m Arrested, Will I Face Civil Lawsuits?

It depends on the specific crime. If you are charged with larceny, assault, manslaughter, or any crime involving injury to another person, the victim(s) have the right to sue the criminal defendant in a civil court. If the crime is victimless, such as drug possession, there won’t be a victim who can bring a civil suit.

But I’m Innocent!

Criminal and civil suits are distinct. Even if the case was dismissed or the jury found the defendant not guilty, winning a case in criminal law will not prevent civil suits from being filed. It is actually very likely that a criminal defendant may win a criminal case but lose the civil suits because the 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?

It depends on the lease agreement and the situation. If the arrestee was a tenant and the arrestee broke the terms of the lease while engaging in behavior that lead to the arrest, then the arrestee may be evicted.

For example, if the arrestee gets into a fight with another tenant and is charged with battery, the arrestee may be evicted if the arrestee agreed in the lease not to "breach the peace" or "disturb fellow tenants" or any other provision of the lease. Note that the arrestee need not be convicted of battery for the arrestee to be evicted. Since the battery and the eviction cases are two separate cases, they will be decided based upon their own laws and evidence.

However, if the arrest occurred away from the rented property or if the lease does not contain a clause regarding tenant behavior or arrest, then eviction will be much less likely.

Can I Be Fired If I’m Arrested?

This depends on the employer. In the US, employers retain employees at-will. This means that employers can terminate their workers for any reason except for an illegal reason. Thus, an employer can legally fire an employee if the employee was arrested, even if the employee was fired for non-work related conduct.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are involved in a legal action, you should consult with an experienced attorney, regardless of whether you are the victim or the defendant.

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Last Modified: 12-31-2013 11:33 AM PST

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