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Blogs from December, 2018

judge in robe holding gavel

A civil compromise is where a Judge can dismiss a misdemeanor charge where there is restitution owed to a victim and the defendant pays back the restitution and settles the case by making the victim whole. The victim can choose to accept the money and sign a document that they will agree to a civil compromise. They must put in writing that they are satisfied with this settlement of the case. This is a civil compromise to a criminal case. If the victim still wants prosecution of the defendant in court, the Judge will not accept this as a civil compromise and dismiss the criminal charge.

The benefits of a civil compromise for the victim are that they are compensated for their loss sooner than later and they do not have to come to court to testify for a hearing or trial.  The benefits of a civil compromise for a defendant are that they can get a full dismissal of their criminal charges and avoid any consequences such as jail time.

What is a civil compromise in California?

In California, the Judge can agree to a civil compromise of a misdemeanor charge. California does not allow civil compromises in certain kinds of cases for public policy reasons, such as when the act is committed against or by a police officer performing official duties, the act is done “riotously,” the defendant intended to commit a felony, the case involves domestic violence or a protective order violation, or the case involves elder or child abuse.

The victim must state either by writing or appearing in court that they are satisfied with the compromise. The Judge can then dismiss the criminal charge under California Penal Code Section 1377 and 1378.

How can that help me in my criminal case?

You can get a Judge to accept the civil compromise and dismiss your entire criminal case. You will not have to suffer the typical consequences of criminal court such as jail time, community service, probation, additional fines and fees and most importantly, you will not have a conviction on your record. If you have immigration issues, a full dismissal of your criminal case will help you avoid losing your immigration status such as a green card or being deported.

What types of crimes can benefit from a civil compromise?

Misdemeanor crimes can benefit from a civil compromise. Typically, misdemeanor crimes that involve theft or the taking of money or property of someone else or a hit and run causing damages can benefit from a civil compromise. Serious or complicated cases will usually not be granted a civil compromise.

An example of a civil compromise to get a Hit and Run charge dismissed:

You are leaving the parking lot of a shopping center and you are in a hurry and accidently hit the bumper of the car parked behind you as you are backing up to leave. You get out of your car to look to see if there is any damage. Your car looks fine. The other parked car you hit has a slight scratch. Because you are busy and/or scared, you decide to leave the scene immediately. You make no efforts to find the owner of that parked car or let anyone know what happened. You go back to your life as usual.

3 months later, you get a notice to appear in Orange County Court as you are being charged with a misdemeanor hit and run. You have no idea what this is for. You forgot all about that parked car you backed into. You go to court and are informed there were cameras in the shopping center and the owner of the car filed a police report. The cameras showed your car hitting the parked car and they locate your name based on your vehicle license plate number. You are now facing criminal charges.

You hire a great criminal defense attorney who decides to try to get your case dismissed by doing a civil compromise with the owner of the parked car. Your attorney sets up an investigator to contact the owner and make arrangements to pay back all their damages, fix their car, and pleads with them to agree to a civil compromise as you have no criminal record and you are very sorry for leaving the scene. The owner of the parked car luckily and your attorney brings in the signed civil compromise that states they have been fully compensated for any losses and that they do not wish to prosecute against you. Your attorney convinces the Judge to accept this civil compromise and your case is dismissed!

How would my attorney get a civil compromise?

Your attorney would send an investigator to contact the victim and find out what their monetary loss is (or restitution) and find out if they’d be willing to sign a civil compromise statement if you paid them back for all their damages/losses. If they agree, your attorney would make arrangements so that the victim would get fully compensated and have them sign an agreement that they agree to settle this case as a civil compromise. The agreement would also have language that your attorney would include where the victim states they do not wish to further prosecute. Your attorney would then show this document to the Judge and ask for a dismissal.

It is crucial to have a good criminal defense attorney to properly set up a civil compromise. A defendant should never try to do this themselves or contact any victims to ask them to do this. This would look inappropriate to the Court and look as if the defendant were trying to bribe or even threaten the victim. Your attorney and an investigator know the proper methods of getting a civil compromise on your behalf.

Who decides if a civil compromise can result in a dismissal in my criminal case?

The Judge does. The Judge will decide if they will accept the civil compromise and dismiss the case or not. The District Attorney can also accept a civil compromise and dismiss the case but they usually won’t. Your attorney will have to ask the Judge to do so.

Why can’t every case be dismissed under a civil compromise?

A civil compromise is for less serious crimes and for when someone is injured by a misdemeanor act and has a remedy by a civil action.