Arizona White-Collar Crime FAQ: How Do Civil and Criminal Offenses Differ?
In many cases of Arizona white-collar crime, defendants face both civil lawsuits and criminal charges. For example, an individual accused of investment fraud may face a civil enforcement action by the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as criminal charges for a crime such as wire fraud. Although both types of cases can have serious consequences, they do differ drastically in some respects.
In most cases, it is more difficult for the government to secure a criminal conviction. As we have previously discussed on this blog, the U.S. attorney or the grand jury must first decide there is sufficient evidence to require a defendant to stand trial. At trial, the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt." This means the evidence must be so strong that there is no reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. In addition, in federal court, the unanimous agreement of 12 jurors would be required should the case go to trial.
The consequences of a criminal conviction are also more severe. A sentence could include time in prison, a fine to be paid to the government, and restitution to be paid to crime victims or a combination thereof.
A civil lawsuit can be brought by a number of different parties, including the victims of the crime or a government entity. Civil lawsuits are generally easier to bring because the burden of proof is lower. The plaintiff has the burden of proof, and generally must prove liability by a preponderance of the evidence(i.e., the greater weight of the evidence.) The requisite proof required in a civil case is far lower than in a criminal case.
Civil penalties are often monetary in nature. Government lawsuits often seek disgorgement of any illicit profits generated by the scheme, which means the money must be turned over to the government, or repayment of the victims. Private lawsuits brought by individual victims often also seek restitution.
How We Can Help
The consequences of white-collar crime can be severe. Therefore, if you are being investigated for white-collar crime, it is essential that you retain an experienced defense attorney who can handle both the criminal and civil aspects of your case.