When Can a Civil Case Lead to Criminal Charges

when can a civil case lead to criminal charges

Some Civil Litigation cases can involve criminal issues or charges.  For example, if someone was defrauded, they could commence a lawsuit to try to recover the money from the person or company that committed the fraud.  In addition to the Civil case, they could contact the police to investigate the alleged crime.  The police will determine whether there are grounds for laying criminal charges against the alleged fraudster.  There can be simultaneous Civil and Criminal cases going on at the same time.  Sometimes, the police will refuse to lay charges if there is a grey area in terms of the impugned conduct and tell the victim that they need to pursue it with a Civil Litigator.  However, that is not always the last word when it comes to possible criminal charges.  Evidence may come out in the Civil case that may be useful to the police, who could decide to bring criminal charges after being given the evidence later on.   

The standard of liability is different for Civil cases and Criminal cases.  In Civil cases, you have to prove your case on a “balance of probabilities” in order to win.  Criminal cases, on the other hand, require the Crown to prove a case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Therefore, the police will need highly compelling evidence of guilt, plus they need to believe that there was a criminal intent before deciding to lay criminal charges.  That is why it may be easier to pursue a case in Civil court.

In employment law cases, sometimes an employer will discover that one of their employees is committing fraud against the company.  There are innumerable instances of when this could occur. Employee theft is a major problem for companies, and it can occur to their most trusted employees.  Sometimes, employees get wrongfully accused of committing fraud against their employer.  There is often a Civil Lawsuit by the company to try to recoup their money, and this may involve trying to freeze the employee’s assets so that they do not dissipate the funds before trial.  This is called a mareva injunction.  At the same time, the employer may have reported the theft to the police, who are investigating the former employee. 

If criminal charges are laid and a conviction is registered, then it is likely that the Civil case will be easier for the Plaintiff.  If the Prosecutor could prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, then you are going to be able to prove your case on a balance of probabilities since that is a significantly lower threshold.