For some crimes, the law provides the defendant with a way to permanently terminate the criminal prosecution without conviction or a “not guilty” jury verdict by compensating the victim. This means of getting charges discharged is called a civil compromise.
Civil compromise is available in misdemeanor cases where the victim has a civil remedy for the injury inflicted—that is, the victim could sue the defendant. Civil compromise is especially suitable as an alternative to prosecution in theft-related cases. Civil compromise can also be pursued in cases of hit and run, property damage, or assault and battery. Civil compromise is not available for offenses committed in a domestic violence matter or against a peace officer, offenses committed in violation of a court order, elder or child abuse, misdemeanors with the intent to commit a felony, or for offenses that were initially charged as felonies and reduced to misdemeanors.
The effect of getting a civil compromise is that the charges are discharged and the defendant may not be prosecuted for the same offense.
The process of obtaining a civil compromise is that the defendant must compensate the victim for the loss or injury suffered. This process is called “satisfaction,” and it usually involves financial compensation, or occasionally an apology. The victim must then appear in court and acknowledge that he or she has been “satisfied” for the loss.
It is important that the defendant not pursue civil compromise on his or her own because an attempt to compromise may be viewed as an attempt to bribe, coerce, intimidate or extort victims/witnesses, which could result in more serious felony charges.
Once the victim has been satisfied, the judge has discretion to dismiss the case even over the objection of the prosecutor.
Civil compromises are a good alternative to prosecution, especially in theft-related situations. Attorney Thomas Greenberg can help convince the victim, whether an individual or a retailer, that a civil compromise is the best outcome for everyone involved.