Filing a Civil Case When There Are No Criminal Charges
On December 7th, 2022 the San Diego District Attorney’s office announced that former San Diego State University punter Matt Araiza will not face charges for his part in the alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party in October of 2021. The girl, who was a minor at the time filed a civil suit against Araiza in August 2022. Araiza, who had been drafted by the Buffalo Bills right out of college was released by the team two days after the civil suit was filed. For their part, SDSU stated their investigation into student conduct was still ongoing.
Since the San Diego DA didn’t file any criminal charges against Araiza, does that mean the civil case closes too? “No, civil cases are separate from criminal cases. Regardless of whether the defendant is acquitted or no charges are filed, as happened with Matt Araiza, the civil case can still move forward,” said attorney J.J. Dominguez of The Dominguez Firm. “One doesn’t impact the other. Also, the burden of proof is lower for a civil case. In a criminal case, prosecutors must present evidence the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For civil cases, the evidence must show what happened was more likely to be true than not true.”
In situations such as these where the victim was under the California age of consent (18), a child sex abuse lawyer, not one that specializes in sexual assault cases will continue the fight for their client’s rights in civil court. A lack of criminal charges may be upsetting to the girl and her family, but they can obtain some emotional closure by seeking compensation from the defendant. Note that civil courts can’t impose prison sentences.
The D.A.’s office stated that prosecutors, sexual assault experts, and investigators went over every detail of the evidence before coming to their decision. Over 10 months they interviewed 35 witnesses, poured over DNA results, and issued 10 search warrants.
The girl reported the rape to her friends right away and went to the police the next morning. She was also interviewed twice by the DA where she alleged Araiza gave her a drink that contained more than just alcohol, rendering her incoherent. She went on to say that the crime happened once she was in an impaired state. Araiza, who was 21 at the time exchanged texts with the girl afterward where he admitted they had sex and advised her to get tested for STDs. For his part, he denies any crime occurred.
If you were the victim of a violent act but your attacker suffered no consequences for their actions in criminal court or was never charged, you still have the right to sue them in a civil court. You could recover compensation for any hospital bills, mental health counseling, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life you experienced. There may be other compensation available to you depending on the particulars of your case. You can act and you don’t have to suffer in silence.