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Can I File a Lawsuit for Theft?

July 10, 2018

Has someone wrongfully stolen or taken property from you or from your business? Then you may be able to find some relief by means of a civil theft lawsuit. Civil lawsuits differ from criminal charges in a few important ways, which is crucial to understand if you are considering filing a lawsuit.

Criminal theft is a general term used to describe crimes that involve taking someone’s property without the owner’s consent and with the intention of depriving them of that property. Criminal theft includes a wide-range of crimes, including larceny, petty theft, grand theft, or others. It encompasses a range of acts including shoplifting, stealing a car, pickpocketing, and beyond.

Criminal theft crimes are prosecuted by the state, and when a person is found guilty they may serve prison time, have to pay fines, or have to do community service as punishment.

Civil theft is a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff (the victim, in this case, or the one bringing forth charges) in a civil court in order to recover money or damages for the stolen property. It’s important to note that a defendant (the one accused of theft) will be held either liable or not liable for theft and have to pay the plaintiff. But unlike criminal cases, where one is found guilty or not guilty, no one can be sentenced to prison time for civil theft cases since it is a lawsuit based upon monetary damages.

Another important distinction between civil theft and criminal theft is the burden of proof needed to rule in your favor. In a criminal case, the state must be able to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, there must be no doubt that the defendant took the property in question.

In a civil case, however, the plaintiff must only prove that the defendant is liable by a preponderance of evidence, which means they more than likely took the property in question. The burden of proof is significantly lower in civil cases.

This difference in burden of proof in civil theft versus criminal theft cases is not unlike those of other crimes. Most famously, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of criminal murder charges, but was found liable for wrongful death in the civil case.

Filing a civil case may be a prudent course of action, even if a criminal case is pending, because criminal cases can often take more time to resolve, and if you don’t receive a satisfactory judgement in the criminal case, you will have the civil case already in the works.

There is one important thing to consider about filing a civil case, though. You should realize that even if you win the case, you may not ever be able to collect anything from the judgment if the defendants don’t have any assets. This type of situation occurs frequently when poor or destitute people resort to theft or stealing, and they don’t really have any assets to speak of when it comes to paying damages in a civil case. Therefore, the likelihood of being able to collect on a favorable judgment is probably one of the first things you should consider when looking at filing for civil theft lawsuit.

These types of lawsuits can be complex undertakings, which is why it makes sense to speak with a lawyer early on to see if you have a case worth pursuing. The team at Fears Nachawati has handled all manner of criminal and civil cases, including those involving civil theft lawsuits. You can be assured that we will fight for you and your legal rights, and that no case is too big or too small for us to take on.

Don’t delay in reaching out to the experienced attorneys at Fears Nachawati for your free, no obligation legal consultation to discuss your options. Please call (866) 705-7584 or visit the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.


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