The difference between civil and criminal actions against domestic abuse in Prince William County is an important distinction. While they often affect the outcomes of one another, criminal actions can result in more severe consequences. Therefore, if you are facing criminal household abuse charges, it is important to speak with a skilled defense lawyer.
In Prince William County, a civil domestic violence action seeks monetary and equitable relief from the accused, whereas criminal prosecution tries to punish the defendant with potential jail time or other consequences. Sometimes the two cases can overlap in terms of the civil damages, restitution, and criminal fines, as well as court no-contact orders that impose limits on an accused’s life activities such as who can be contacted or cohabitated with.
However, criminal prosecutions can be more serious in nature, and cannot be terminated at the sole discretion of the injured party like civil actions can. A plaintiff can drop a civil domestic violence action at any time, either by non-suiting the case or settling the case outside of court.
A claimant in a Prince William County civil lawsuit cannot drop criminal domestic violence charges on their own. Criminal prosecution is technically a public controversy between the state government and the accused, not a personal conflict between the alleged victim and the accused, as it is in a civil lawsuit. As such, prosecutors technically do not need the consent of the accuser to prosecute domestic violence charges, but such consent is usually an important consideration, especially if the testimony of the injured party is needed to prove the criminal charge.
A prosecutor can require an alleged victim of a criminal case to participate in the prosecution, regardless of the existence of a corresponding civil domestic violence suit. Specifically, prosecutors can issue subpoenas, which are court orders requiring a witness to appear and give testimony at trial.
If someone ignores a subpoena, they become subject to criminal liability as well. However, once a witness is on the stand, the prosecution cannot force this person to give testimony, which could potentially incriminate this individual themselves in the commission of a crime. This is true regardless of whether or not the crime has already been investigated or charged.
In many instances, contact between the defendant and the accuser is prohibited by a court order anyway, and violating this action may generate additional criminal charges or penalties. Practically speaking, an accused individual should avoid contact with the claimant to prevent jeopardizing their case.
The alleged victim may engage in deception to gain further incriminating evidence from the accused during those communications, which can then be used to prove the defendant’s guilt in the underlying domestic violence case. Even if such communications start amicably, domestic abuse accusers are especially prone to change their positions throughout the case based on unpredictable emotional pressure.
Civil and criminal actions against domestic abuse in Prince William County can both lead to major disruptions and consequences in your life. Therefore, if you have been accused of violently attacking a family member, you should contact an experienced attorney who could help you in both cases. For legal assistance, call today.
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