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What is the Difference between a Criminal and Civil Case Involving the Abuse of a Child in a Day Care Center?

By David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network

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In California and other States, day care centers are the unfortunate sites of abuse and neglect of the very children who were supposed to be protected and nurtured at the facility. When a child is abused, neglected, and / or molested at a day care center, a criminal case may be pursued against the molester / abuser through the work and efforts on the local police and prosecutor’s office. A civil case may be pursued against the day care center and / or the molester / abuser. There is a difference between the two cases as follows:

Burden of Proof
In a civil matter, the case must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence or the more likely than not standard. In a criminal matter, the case must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Authority to Pursue the Case
In a civil matter, the parents of the injured child can pursue the case on their own OR through the representation of a private Child Injury Lawyer. The case can move forward in the Court system as long as a cause of action is properly pled. A cause of action typically consists of the following elements: 1. Duty; 2. Breach of Duty; 3. Causation; and 4 Damages.

In a criminal matter, the prosecutor’s office makes the decision as to the formal pursuit of the case. At the arrest phase, the police often times work hand in hand with the prosecutor’s office. Beyond the arrest, it is up to the prosecutor’s office to make the decision as to further pursuit of the case and the exact charges to be formally filed against the criminal defendant.

Results Obtained / Remedy Sought
In a civil matter, the typical purpose of the case is to seek compensation for the injuries and damages sustained by the injured child. It is beyond the authority of the parents and / or their private lawyers to shut down the facility or arrest the Defendants involved with the abuse, neglect, or molestation of the child.

In a criminal matter, there can be a variety of results obtained or remedies sought including: imposition of fines, imposition of restitution, probation, prison sentences, and / or probation. Some criminal cases go to trial while others are worked out through a plea bargain. In some instances, the charges are dropped if there is an issue with the evidence or there is a decision (for other reasons) by the prosecutor’s office to dismiss the case.

A recent arrest was reported in Gerber, California. It was reported that Ralph Elvis Martin faces three felony charges related to allegations of abuse perpetrated against a child under the age of 10 years old and a child under the age of 14 years old. It was reported that Martin’s wife was the owner / operator of a day care center located in Gerber, California – Country Kids Daycare. You can read more about this story at Husband of Day Care Owner Arrested Following Allegations of Abuse. The criminal defendant will be entitled to the legal services of a private criminal defense lawyer or the services of the public defender’s office.

When a child has been abused or neglected, the parents should seek the advice of a law enforcement authorities, child welfare, therapists, and, yes, a Child Injury Lawyer. It is important that the parents have advice and guidance during these most troubling times. The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Child Abuse, and other topics. You can receive this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.