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What happens when a civil lawsuit contains criminal matters ?

Lancaster, CA |

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 ?

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Attorney answers 5


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.

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.



I marked your answer best because your comment about "no certainty" made the most sense why the civil matter would be allowed to continue. Thanks


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.

You are welcome to call Ms. Johns' offices for a free or low cost consultation at (866) 402-4038. Please note that Ms. Johns is a lawyer although she is not your lawyer unless you have signed a written fee or letter agreement confirming her office's representation of you. This email does not otherwise constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship.


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.
Robert Driessen

Mr. Driessen is a former Deputy DA in Orange County with over 8 years of criminal law experience. Nothing stated on this site shall in anyway be construed as legal advice, or as creating any attorney client relationship. If you would like to hire Mr. Driessen, feel free to contact him at


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.

I am licensed only in California and this response is provided as general information only. It is not intended to be legal advice. Legal advice must be based on the exact facts of the particular situation, and by necessity this forum is not appropriate for discussion of specific, exact facts. Contact a lawyer for more specific advice. My answer to your question on AVVO does not create an attorney-client relationship.


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."

I am an Antelope Vally attorney and I give free consultations. If you have any questions or problems, give me a call at 661-902-8176. Good luck to you.

David J. Parsons

For informative purposes only. The attorney does not contemplate an attorney/client relationship being formed simply by providing information here nor is one thereby formed without a written contract for that attorney's services.

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