Can I Sue My Attacker If He Was Found Not Guilty Of Sexual Assault?
While sexual assault is a crime punishable by law in New Hampshire, victims of sex crimes also have a right to sue their attacker (and other liable parties, if applicable) to get compensated for the pain, suffering, medical expenses, and other losses caused by the perpetrator’s wrongful conduct.
But what if the attacker is found not guilty in their criminal case? Does it mean that the victim cannot pursue a civil case to recover damages?
Contact a sexual assault attorney in New Hampshire if you want to sue your attacker and hold them accountable for their conduct.
Can You Still Sue for Sexual Assault if the Attacker is Found Not Guilty?
If the person who sexually assaulted you was acquitted of sexual assault or rape charges, you might wonder, “Does it mean I will lose my civil case against him?”
Not necessarily. While it is true that a conviction would serve as evidence to prove that the attacker is responsible for your damages in a civil case, you may still be able to sue and win your civil case even if they are found not guilty.
The Difference Between Criminal and Civil Sexual Assault Cases
Civil cases are very different from criminal cases when it comes to suing an attacker for sexual assault. First and foremost, in a criminal case, the prosecution has a higher burden of proof in order to get a conviction. The prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”. By contrast, in civil cases, a plaintiff only needs to prove the defendant’s guilt by “a preponderance of the evidence” to hold them responsible for your damages and losses. A “preponderance of the evidence”
In addition, not all types of evidence may be admissible in criminal courts. Thus, the court may exclude some critical pieces of evidence that would prove the attacker’s guilt. If the same evidence is permitted in a civil case, it may make a difference in the outcome.
In other words, you may be able to bring a civil claim against the attacker regardless of whether they were convicted or found not guilty. The outcome of the criminal case does not impact your ability to seek justice in a civil case.
Why Victims of Sexual Assault Should Sue Their Attackers
While having the attacker convicted can bring peace of mind to the victim of sexual assault, suing the attacker to seek restitution can also provide closure. There are at least three reasons a victim should pursue a civil lawsuit against their attacker:
- Lower burden of proof. As mentioned earlier, you only need to prove the attacker’s guilt by a preponderance of the evidence to hold them accountable in a civil lawsuit. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” which is a much higher burden.
- The ability to sue multiple liable parties. In many sexual assault cases, you can sue not only the attacker, but also other liable parties. For example, if the place where you were attacked had inadequate security measures in place, you might be able to sue the owner of the property for negligence.
- More control. When pursuing a civil lawsuit, you have more control over the process. In a civil case, you have the authority to make decisions. In a criminal case, you would only serve as a witness as the state or federal government is the party bringing the charge, not the victim.
Suing the attacker after being sexually assaulted is emotionally difficult. However, pursuing a lawsuit against the person who caused you so much pain and suffering may be necessary to regain a sense of control over your life.
You do not have to do this alone. Consult with our Manchester sexual assault attorneys at the Law Office of Manning Zimmerman & Oliveira PLLC to determine if you can sue your attacker even though he was found not guilty. Call 603-624-7200 to discuss your options.