If I sue someone for a civil matter (grand theft by conversion) and during the trial it becomes clear that defendant committed criminal acts (fraud, trespass to realty, extortion, etc) what happens to my civil suit? Does it go on hold pending the criminal matter, get dismissed, or what ?
In some instances, the civil action can be "stayed" pending a final determination of a concurrent criminal action. The defendant will have to make a motion (formal request) to the court though.
However, if the civil action is already in the middle of trial, it is highly unlikely that the civil trial will be stayed or dismissed. More likely than not, the civil trial will conclude with a verdict (if jury trial) or judgment (if court trial). That's because there is no certainty as to whether or not the DA will actually prosecute the criminal matter.
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Family Law Attorney
Mr. Chen is, as always, correct. Whether the DA prosecutes the case is another issue. The DA might be waiting for the outcome of your trial or figure that justice was served if you win.
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DUI / DWI Attorney
In reality nothing. The civil suit continues. Prosecutors file charges based on police reports and very rarely if ever would a case be filed due to a civil lawsuit. It appears you already asked the police to make a report and they have refused.
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If the DA decides to investigate and press charges, the defendant may have a reason to seek a stay because of his/her 5th amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. That right doesn't apply to civil suits because they are not criminal in nature so testifying about torts or breach of contract is not incriminating. But if the acts were criminal and are prosecutable, then the defendant's lawyer should be objecting as discovery is ongoing, particularly if the DA or the police are investigating.
But many times during civil cases, what happened could be a crime (trespass, some kinds of fraud, and conversion are good examples) but as between the parties, it is being handled as a civil matter. And just because you believe it was a crime doesn't mean the police or the DA would see it the same way. If you are in the middle of a civil lawsuit, they might well conclude that the best way to resolve the problem is not through a criminal prosecution, but with continuing the civil suit.
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Criminal Defense Attorney
Again, my colleagues are correct. The defendant would probably ask the matter be stayed until after the resolution of the criminal matter. I think that we went over these facts before. "Grand theft by conversion" is not correct legal terminology. In civil it is "conversion," in criminal it is "theft."
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David J. Parsons
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