Earlier this fall reports came out revealing that a Skokie police officer had allegedly mistreated a woman in his custody who had been arrested for DUI. This week, reports confirm that that officer is not only facing criminal charges for aggravated battery and criminal misconduct in connection with the incident, but also a civil lawsuit. The case demonstrates the dynamic between criminal and civil cases, and the fact that a criminal defendant may also face civil liability for his or her actions.
According to chicago.cbslocal.com, 43-year-old Michael Hart faces charges for felony crimes for an incident that occurred in March. Officer Hart had picked up Cassandra Feuerstein, who had allegedly been driving drunk. According to reports, Officer Hart became frustrated and angry with Ms. Feuerstein after she refused to look in a specific direction for her booking photograph. At that point, Officer Hart allegedly shoved Ms. Feuerstein into a concrete cell, smashing her face. The impact of the push into the concrete caused Ms. Feuerstein to suffer broken bones in her face, loose teeth, and a cut. She ultimately was required to have a titanium plate surgically implanted into her face.
While the criminal case against Officer Hart is still pending, Ms. Feuerstein has filed a civil lawsuit seeking unspecified damages to compensate her for the injuries she suffered at the hands of Officer Hart. In the civil lawsuit, Ms. Feuerstein additionally alleges that Officer Hart falsified police reports to justify his treatment of Ms. Feuerstein. These are allegations that prosecutors have already dropped in the civil suit.
If Officer Hart is convicted of the criminal charges, he may face up to five years in prison. Meanwhile, if he is found liable for Ms. Feuerstein’s damages in the civil suit, he would likely be required to pay monetary damages to Ms. Feuerstein.
Ms. Feuerstein’s case and the case against Mr. Hart demonstrate some of the basic differences between civil suits and criminal cases. First, criminal cases are prosecuted by the government, not by an individual, while civil cases are brought by the individual who has suffered damages. Secondly, the outcomes of civil and criminal cases are also different; in civil cases, the aggrieved party is generally awarded monetary damages as compensation for their claim, while in criminal cases, a convicted person is generally sentenced to jail time or fines payable to the state. Lastly, in criminal cases a defendant is entitled to an attorney. If a defendant in a criminal case cannot afford an attorney, one may be appointed by the state. However, in civil cases, plaintiffs and defendants are not entitled to representation, and must hire an attorney to represent their interests.
There are many other differences between civil and criminal cases, especially relating to procedure and the standard of proof. The most important thing to note, however, is that a criminal trial may be accompanied or followed by a civil lawsuit. If you have been charged with violating criminal laws, your best line of defense is to immediately speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Goldman & Associates today for a confidential consultation.