Southwestern

Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Title IX


Legal Issues

Pursuing a Civil Suit

How is a civil suit different from a criminal prosecution?

In a civil suit, you are seeking money damages or other civil remedies that do not involve prison time. In some ways, winning a civil suit might be easier than winning a criminal trial. Unlike the criminal proceedings, which require testimony and evidence showing the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the civil proceedings only require “a preponderance of evidence.” However, keep in mind that civil suits are not confidential, and evidence will have to be presented.

How do I pursue a civil suit?

You initiate a civil lawsuit by contacting an attorney. Attorneys can be found in the phone book or by contacting the Austin Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service (512-472-8303). Other options are the Sexual Assault Legal Line at (888) 296-SAFE and Victims Initiative for Counseling Advocacy & Restoration of the Southwest 888-343-4414 (free legal help).

Once you contact a lawyer, s/he can explain the process in detail, and you can decide whether or not to proceed from there.

How much does a civil suit cost?

Filing a civil suit is usually free if the attorney takes the case on a contingency basis, meaning the attorney only gets paid if he or she wins, although you may have to pay for some expenses if you lose.

Will the police or District Attorney’s office be involved?

Civil actions are not part of the criminal system, therefore the police and DA will not be involved. However, your personal attorney can request copies of the police or DA reports for your case.