Asked in Civil Litigation and Criminal Law for New York

Q: I am Italian but I have a curiosity about American law

I am Italian but I have a curiosity about American law: In Italy, when someone is the person damaged by the crime who intends to assert his claim for compensation or restitution before the criminal judge, he becomes a civil party. How does it work in America?

1 Lawyer Answer
Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
  • Little Neck, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Your question bridges two areas of practice under U.S. law. You ask about restitution. That is a remedy provided for under criminal law, where the criminal must pay the victim for losses they caused (medical expenses, lost wages, property losses, and others). There are also crime victim compensation statutes.

In terms of the CIVIL party you ask about, under U.S. law, civil actions are separate. You can find high-profile cases where a criminal defendant in a murder trial may have been acquitted. But then the family pursued a CIVIL action against the defendant in a wrongful death action. They are separate actions. Under U.S. law, the causes of action do not merge or transition (you mention "he becomes a civil party"). The criminal action is prosecuted by the state; the civil action is filed by the family (or victim herself/himself, depending on the crime). The evidentiary standards are different. The criminal prosecution is governed by stricter burdens of proof than the civil action. Good luck

Tim Akpinar

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