The law in California makes it a crime for one person to intentionally harm another through acts of physical violence in most situations. Despite statutes intended to curb interpersonal aggression, assaults are relatively common. People get over-excited at sporting events or parties. They drink too much and then lose control of themselves, which is of course no excuse for breaking the law. The state will pursue criminal charges in such cases because assault violates California law.
The state prosecuting someone who attacked another person can be a source of vindication for the victim. However, vindication in court can be a cold comfort to someone saddled with massive medical debt because of their injuries and coping with weeks of lost income because of what occurred.
Is it a violation of double jeopardy protections for someone seriously hurt by another individual in California to take that person to court after the state has already successfully prosecuted them?
Double jeopardy applies to criminal court, not civil court
The double jeopardy rule exists to prevent the government from engaging in malicious prosecution. If the state charges someone with a criminal offense related to a specific incident and fails to convict them, it is typically illegal to attempt to prosecute them a second time for the same offense.
Double jeopardy protections help ensure that the government doesn’t abuse its prosecutorial authority. It has no impact on the right of an individual to hold another person accountable for the consequences of their actions. Misconduct, including criminal assault, is one of the factors that can justify a personal injury lawsuit under California state law.
The prior prosecution of the assailant by the state will not diminish the victim’s expenses or eliminate their right to take legal action. If anything, the successful prosecution is an indication that there is sufficient evidence to file a lawsuit in civil court. The financial responsibility that someone may have for their criminal actions is completely separate from any criminal prosecution that they face.
Those with verifiable expenses related to a violent assault may be in an actionable position to seek compensation from the person who injured them. Learning more about California’s personal injury laws may help those harmed by someone else feel more confident about pursuing compensation in civil court.